The New Green: Outdated transit system
Published: Thursday, October 4, 2012
Updated: Thursday, October 4, 2012 23:10
Automobile transportation may be public enemy number one when it comes to environmental degradation. Its harmful effects are blatantly noticeable – the unpleasant, never-ending noise of traffic, the pools of oil and piles of litter that gather in our roadways and parking lots, the urban sprawl created by our freeways, and of course, the poisoning of our air.
Don’t let anyone tell you that exhaust is clean. Cars are responsible for 43 percent of Connecticut’s air pollution, including particulates and nitrogen oxides an enormous proportion compared to the national average of 29 percent. Not to mention that burning just one gallon of gas adds 20 pounds of CO2 to the atmosphere.
Clearly, our current transportation system is a relic of the past that is completely unfit for a healthy, progressive society. Re-working our nation’s infrastructure seems like an impossible task, but it simply must be done. The initial cost may be high, but the ultimate benefit that we will all collectively reap in our health and our wallets will make any actions that we take now more than worth it. And the best way to make a difference is, as always, to make change happen locally.
So where does Connecticut stand in terms of transportation?
Just this week, state and federal officials announced that Connecticut will be receiving $121 million in federal funding for a high-speed rail project that would connect New Haven, Hartford, Willimantic and Springfield. Governor Malloy has already contributed $174 million in state bonds towards the project, which should begin daily service in 2016. This is an exciting, applaudable leap forward for Connecticut and New England in general because it illustrates intelligent, long-term planning. Officials recognize that the ultimate economic gains will far outweigh the up-front costs.
However, there is still much room for improvement in our state. An absurd amount of Connecticut workers (70 percent) commute to their jobs in single-passenger vehicles. We have far too many paved surfaces, one consequence of which is dire water pollution – it is now estimated that only 11 percent of Connecticut’s rivers and streams are officially clean enough to swim in.
Too many of us have to hop in the car just to run simple errands or meet up with friends. We are all entitled to cheap, efficient transit systems that preserve our health and our environment. There are some huge opportunities coming up to help make this happen in our state.
In the 2013 legislative session, our representatives will be revising the State Plan of Conservation and Development, and we can all directly influence this process! An excellent place to learn more and to find specific instructions on how to make a difference is Getting Where You Want To Go, the new transportation guide produced by the nonpartisan Connecticut League of Conservation Voters, which is available for free on their website.