Next to flight travel, travel by train is one of the safest and most reliable means of mass transportation. Electric trains in particular emit no pollution, have less accidents than vehicular traffic and are generally quieter than diesel/diesel hybrid counterparts. Trains also take up less space—a boon to population-dense areas with little to no acreage to spare.
Trains offer significant economic, energy, environmental, public health and safety and national security benefits on state, municipal and local levels. For commuters, trains can be a lifesaver. Travel by rail offers an efficient means to avoid traffic-related delays, decrease commuting time between destinations, and lower the monthly gas bill at the pump. For families, rail access in walking or biking distance can also facilitate access to essential services such as healthcare; social and recreational opportunities such as museums, outdoor parks and aquariums; and serve as another alternative to spending much-needed time with loved ones across the state.
For long haul truckers, interstate railways present an opportunity for shorter trucks between train stops, leading to more reasonable workday schedules for drivers. Trains are also more aerodynamically sound than trucks and cars and move freight at a rate of 1.9 to 5.5 times faster, depending on the train model. Pulling more trucks off the road decreases pavement upkeep from heavy rubber truck wheels, reduces road, air and noise pollution and decreases truck maintenance costs from routine wear and tear.
For Connecticut towns and cities, especially the former manufacturing hubs of our state, access to mass transit systems can build the local tax base, increase access to transportation-related jobs, increase access to employment and education in the state as well as in neighboring states.
Mass transit works for everyone—our youth and our elders, our struggling families and financially sound ones. In addition to replacing all diesel hybrid locomotives with completely electric freight trains, we should repurpose our existing freight lines for passenger and commuter travel. Current rail options are the CSX Line, Providence and Worcester Line, Connecticut Southern Line, the Branford Steam Railroad, Central New England Railroad, Naugatuck Railroad, New England Central Railroad and the Housatonic Railroad. Possible rail line opportunities that target intrastate travel specifically are:
Greenwich to Canaan Line: Rail stops would include Danbury, New Milford, Falls Village, Norfolk and Sharon.
Greenwich to Milford Spur (formerly the Merritt Parkway): Rail stops would include Stamford, Norwalk, Bridgeport and Stratford.
New Milford to Norwich Spur: Rail stops would include Woodbury, Waterbury, Middlebury and Colchester.
Salisbury to Putnam Line: Rail stops would include stops in Canaan or New Canaan, Windsor Locks, Somers, Stanford and Woodstock. This line could potentially extend to points west through New York and points northeast through Rhode Island, with connecting options to Post University.
Enfield to New London Line: Rail stops would include Windsor Locks, Hartford, Berlin, Middletown, New Haven, Old Saybrook and Stonington. Area colleges that would benefit would be Post University, University of New Haven and Southern Connecticut State University. This line could potentially extend to points north through Massachusetts and points northeast through Rhode Island.
Somers to New London Line: Rail stops would include Mansfield, Windham, Scotland and Sprague, with connection options to University of Connecticut, Mansfield Campus.
Woodstock to New London Line: Rail stops include Killingly, Brooklyn, Lisbon, Norwich, Preston and Ledyard, with connecting options to the United States Coast Guard Academy and Connecticut Community College.
Middletown to Old Saybrook Spur: Rail stops include Haddam, East Haddam and Lyme, with connecting options to Quinnipiac University and Wesleyan University.
As a state, Connecticut could lead the nation in prioritizing the reduction of fossil fuels usage, including diesel fuel, via promotion of mass transit. Electricity, solar thermal generation, wind, or water turbines are the future of energy generation in Connecticut and the world. Investing in mass transit in Connecticut will have a profound social impact within and outside of our borders. Now is the time to initiate interstate pacts with our New England and Mid-Atlantic neighbors to lead the entire country in exploring the benefits of a robust rail line to our ridership base. We could divert federal, state and private sector funds to rail system infrastructure installation and improvements. Instead of building submarines and other weapons of war, we can be waging the peace on the home front by soliciting for train system designs from regional authorities such as Electric Boat, Sikorsky and Pratt and Whitney. We can also promote manufacturing of train parts right here in Connecticut, for our own use and potentially for the entire country. Mass transit for the win.
Editor’s Note: Michelle Louise Bicking, LCSW MPA CD (DONA), is the 2022 Green Party Candidate for Governor. Contact her at email@example.com