The Need to Invest in Public and Alternative Transportation

As we approach the start of the next session of the Connecticut General Assembly, lawmakers must take a serious approach to addressing the state's inadequate and shameful public transportation system.

By Al Robinson -

State Comptroller Sean Scanlon recently announced that the state is on track to end the fiscal year with a 200-million-dollar surplus in the Special Transportation Fund (STF). The fund's primary purpose, which receives its revenue from a tax levied on retail and wholesale gasoline, is to finance the enhancement of the state's highway and public transportation system.

One of the main criticisms of STF is that the fund is based on regressive taxation, where residents' gas tax is assessed at the same rate regardless of income. While the state's wealthiest residents have no problem paying into the fund, low-income and working families forced to commute by car due to the state's abysmal transportation system are disproportionally impacted.

For residents who live paycheck to paycheck, and who use public transportation as their primary means of travel, commuting in Connecticut is an exercise in torture that reinforces the economic inequality that exists in one of the wealthiest states in the nation.

For instance, if you live in Danbury and work in Waterbury, or vice versa, you are out of luck if you rely on buses to commute, even though I-84 between the two cities is one of the state's most congested stretches of highway. Rail travel or a bike trail network connecting the two cities is nonexistent, although both municipalities are less than 30 miles apart.

The state applauding record surplus from imposing an unreasonable, regressive tax on low-income residents while not asking the wealthy to pay their fair share for our transportation needs is unfair and an insult to people who are forced to drive to and from work daily.

The state should be investing in ways to get more cars off the roads, such as converting old, unused rail lines into bike and walking trails that could connect communities with minimal environmental impact, investing in bus service that connects Danbury to Waterbury and Hartford, and take a severe approach to expand rail service throughout areas of the state that are in desperate need of alternative ways to commute.

Contact your state lawmakers and demand a change to mass transit in Connecticut, or replace them in November with representatives who will listen to your needs.