Saturday, July 20, 2024

You are in Traffic


Talking Transportation”

By Jim Cameron
Author: “Off The Record: Confessions of a Media Consultant

Stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic the other day on I-95 I grumbled to myself “Where is all this traffic coming from?”   And then I remembered:

If you’re stuck in traffic, you are the traffic!  Guilty. 

But what’s being done to reduce all that traffic?

In New York City they’re about to embark on a daring test:  Congestion Pricing.  Barring any last minute legal moves by opponents, it will soon cost $15 to drive your car into Manhattan below 60th street.

Though this will be a first for the US, congestion pricing has been tried in other big cities going back fifty years.  Singapore has been doing it since the 1970’s and is still fine-tuning the system.  In London, where a congestion zone fee (now almost $19 per day) was instituted in 2003, traffic dropped by 18% in the first year but has since returned.

The idea of congestion pricing is to discourage driving while raising billions of dollars to support mass transit.  Just like highway tolls, those who pay (to drive) should also see some benefit (less traffic) and better mass transit alternatives.

But now NYC wants to add another twist:  lowered speed limits.  As part of that state’s budget package, smaller streets in the city would see speed limits reduced from 25 to 20 mph in the name of pedestrian safety.  So… maybe less traffic (thanks to the tolling) but maybe slower trip times?

And what is Connecticut doing to battle our traffic congestion and improve highway safety?  Not enough.

The CDOT has been marking Work Zone Safety Week with an awareness campaign reminding all who drive to slow down where work is being done roadside.  Even when sober, we drive too fast.  Since the introduction of just three experimental speed cameras in work zones last year, 20,000 drivers were issued warning tickets.

Lawmakers have apparently again killed a bill that would lower the legal blood alcohol limit from .08 to .05.  This was tried last year and also failed despite the fact that Connecticut ranks #4 in the US in fatal accidents.

Also reportedly killed was a bill which would have allowed municipalities to limit the sales of “nips”, those small airline-style booze bottles found littering our highways.  A nickel-a-nip bottle deposit returned $11 million to towns and cities, giving you a sense of the popularity of the booze-to-go bottles:  just quaff and toss.

According to NHTSA traffic data, from 2017 to 2021 there were almost 2000 Connecticut drivers involved in fatal crashes and 40% of them were legally drunk.  And of those who were the drunkest of the drunk (with a blood alcohol limit over 0.15), Connecticut ranked #1 in the nation. Congratulations.

This failure by lawmakers to keep our highways safe by keeping drivers sober just sends the wrong message, starting with their own members.  You’ll remember State Rep Robin Comey who was “reeking of alcohol” after rolling her car in front of the Capitol last year.  Her BAC reading was 0.1446.

While being processed by police, Comey was informed of the consequences if she refused a blood test.  Police body cam footage shows her joking “That doesn’t make sense.  I guess we’ll have to change the laws.

Jim Cameron is founder of the Commuter Action Group and advocates for Connecticut rail riders. His weekly column “Talking Transportation” is archived here.  You can contact Jim at [email protected].”


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