Cameron: Why Does Red Mean Stop?

Do you ever wonder why our stoplights designate red as stop and green as go?  Me too!  In fact, it was my daughter’s question on this very matter that inspired me to do some historic research. In the 1840s the British railroads adopted a flag, lamp and semaphore signal system where red meant danger, white meant safety and green indicated proceed with caution.  They took their inspiration from early industrialization where factory machines used red to indicate the equipment was off and green when turned on. But when the red glass lens on one signal lamp dropped out of its

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Cameron: Parking and the Pandemic

There’s another part of our transportation network being seriously affected by COVID-19 beyond our roads and rails:  parking lots. Parking is something we take for granted, giving us access to rail stations, shopping and offices.  It’s hardly glamorous, but the parking industry represents an $11 billion business nationwide, one third of it privately owned. In Connecticut most rail station parking is owned by the Connecticut DOT but administered by the local towns, each of which sets its own rates and terms.  The money collected from commuters is supposed to be spent on station upkeep and amenities while the state takes

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Cameron: Deja Vu All Over Again

Welcome to Connecticut, the home of third world infrastructure. Tropical storm Isaias has shown, once again, that we don’t want to invest in our state’s physical plant and we don’t learn from our mistakes.  But we are all so ready to blame somebody else when stuff goes wrong. Every time a Metro-North train pulls down old catenary (overhead power lines), commuters scream “Where are the replacement buses?”, as if a fleet of buses is kept on permanent standby waiting for such strandings. If we did better maintenance on the trains and wires, such accidents might not happen.  But that takes

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Cameron: Fare Equity

Ridership on Metro-North is still down 85% from pre-pandemic levels, but in-state bus ridership is coming back… up to 70% of normal from a March low of 40%.  Why the difference?  Because bus riders and rail riders are very different. Surveys by CDOT and Metro-North showed the average income of a Metro-North rider was about $150,000, given that many were living in affluent Fairfield County towns and commuting to good paying jobs in New York City. Bus riders are predominantly working class, urban dwellers who make less money and, in many cases don’t own cars.  They’re not riding the bus

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Cameron: The City Island Monorail

Looking for a fun day-trip for the family?  Don’t miss City Island, a boat-centric New England style “village” just off the east coast of The Bronx.   In addition to some of the city’s best seafood restaurants, City Island was also home to a monorail over a century ago. The three-mile line from the Bartow train station on what was then the Harlem River branch of the NY, New Haven and Hartford Railroad (near what today is Co-Op City in the Bronx) through Pelham Park, over a rickety bridge and ending at the Island.  It would replace the slow, forty minute

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Shipping Containers

They’re just a big metal box, but they’ve revolutionized the transportation world in the last decades, enabling global trade at unimaginable levels and changing all of our lives.  The story of the invention of the shipping container is an unheralded part of transportation history. In the old days, freighters carrying cargo overseas loaded and unloaded pallets or bails of cargo, one at a time.  I witnessed this myself as a child when my father, a real fan of the seas, took me on cargo ships as a passenger on trips from the Great Lakes to the Caribbean. At each port

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Dinner at George and Kellyanne’s

The invitation made it seem is if the event was some sort of charity benefit and, I apparently, would be an honored guest. I deduced that from envelope, as it was intimately addressed to “Dear Occupant.” I figured, well, Kellyanne or George were targeting those of us with deep pockets (containing up to $100 or more) for a good cause. But when I arrived at the Conway house, I learned otherwise.             “Welcome,” Kellyanne said, as she opened the door to the house on Embassy Row. I glanced around and saw so no other people in the enormous living room,

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Cameron: China Leads the World

Which is the number one country in the world for transportation?  Certainly not the United States.  Not even countries in the EU.  No, you have to look farther east, as Marco Polo did in 1271, to find the future… in China. I’m so tired of ignorant Americans chanting “we’re number one”, when we are not.  Not in healthcare, education and clearly not when it comes to using transportation to bolster our world trade. Compare our crumbling interstate highway system, much of it built during the Eisenhower administration, to China’s superhighways, twice the mileage of our own. Or look at our

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Civil Rights and the Railroads

In the history of American transportation, there is one crucial intersection between railroads and civil rights:  the formation in 1925 of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters by A. Phillip Randolph.  This was the first predominantly African-American labor union in the US. PULLMAN CARS It was in 1859 that George Pullman launched the first deluxe railroad sleeping cars bearing his name.  They were an instant hit, offering middle and upper-class passengers the comforts of home. All of the Pullman Car conductors were white but the porters who tended to the passengers were black.  Many of them were former slaves as

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Claimed $24 Billion in Savings on State Compensation Based on Outrageous Assumption

Ever since former Governor Dannel Malloy announced famously to a state employee union rally in 2014 that “I am your servant,” the general public in Connecticut has grown increasing aware and upset about excessive state employee compensation. Late last month, I wrote a column in this newspaper and the Hartford Courant calling upon Governor Lamont to use his emergency powers to cancel, suspend or delay a large pay raise that all state employees were about to receive on July 1st, a pay hike that Lamont himself had called unfair in the context of massive private sector job losses. State employees

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Cameron: Where’s the Legislature?

Where the heck has the Connecticut legislature been for the past few months?  With so many pressing issues, why haven’t they met? Oh, they’ll tell you it’s because of safety that they couldn’t convene. But we know better.  Plenty of state legislatures… even the US House of Representatives… have carried on the people’s business virtually or well-masked while our pols went AWOL. No, Connecticut’s lawmakers finished the budget and just scurried home, leaving the running of the state to Governor Lamont by executive order.  Now they’re jealous of his success. Ned Lamont is no Andrew Cuomo, but most Nutmeggers think

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What Does On Time Really Mean?

You’re on a Metro-North train headed for Grand Central, nervously looking at your watch.  “Will we be on time?  Will I be late for the meeting?” you ask yourself as you pass 125th Street, usually just 11 minutes from the final stop. Then, you hit congestion and the train crawls through the Park Avenue tunnel, stopping and starting.  You’re going to be late, and sure enough your train pulls onto the lower level platform five minutes after the scheduled arrival time. But technically, your train is not late.  It’s on time. How?  Why?  What feat of magic does Metro-North use

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Jahncke: Cancelling Raise For State Employees Could Raise More Than Lamont’s Final Toll Proposal and Almost Half of his Original

June 27, 2020 — Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont, a Democrat, sees the unfairness of about 50,000 state employees getting a $350 million pay raise next Wednesday, July 1st while almost 600,000 private sector workers in Connecticut have lost their jobs. He said as much at a mid-June food bank give-away. It’s not just wages: the state workforce enjoys a contractual no-layoff guarantee through 2021 as well as gold plate health care and pension benefits. Yet Lamont cannot bring himself to cancel, suspend or even delay the raise, which follows a raise of roughly similar amount a year ago. As a result of the

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Getting There: How Safe is the Train?

As New York City businesses reopens it’s expected that one million people will get back to work, some of them from Connecticut.  But how they get to those jobs is the big question. While I’ve written for weeks that I expect many Nutmeggers will opt first for their personal automobiles, the resulting traffic mess will soon have them reconsidering a return to Metro-North and the city’s subways. The big issue, of course, is keeping everyone safe by maintaining social distancing and requiring face masks for all riders. MORE TRAINS & SUBWAYS Metro-North has already expanded rush hour service by 26%

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Twenty Year Telecommuter Misses the City

Joe Connolly has been a telecommuter for 20 years. You probably know him from his award winning business reports on WCBS Newsradio 880 or his Small Business Breakfasts held annually in Stamford.  But you might not realize that Connolly lives not in New York City but in eastern Connecticut. He’s up and working weekdays by 4:30 am, driving first to pick up a print copy of the Wall Street Journal before heading to his office /  broadcast studio near his home, where he seldom opens the window-blinds.  “I’m here to work,” he says, “not for the view.” In his broadcast

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One Size Does Not Fit the Virus

The nation and Connecticut are reopening fitfully and unevenly from a shutdown that many think should not have happened – many including Pulitzer-Prize-winning columnist Thomas Friedman of the left-leaning New York Times and Dr. David L. Katz, a Connecticut MD and an expert with a public health degree from Yale. Our “one-size-fits-all” shutdown policy is strange in the face of a virus which afflicts different population segments in such wildly different ways. For those over age 65, who comprise only 16 percent of the country’s population, the virus has been devastating. This age group has sustained about 80 percent of

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State Workers Should Give Back

For the second time in a decade over 100,000 private sector workers in Connecticut have lost their jobs, while not a single state employee has been laid off in either instance. For almost the entire decade, state workers have enjoyed contractual no-layoff guarantees, presently extending to 2021. Not only that, following the Great Recession, state workers got three 3 percent annual pay raises, and, now, they will get a 3.5% wage hike in just three months – on the heels of a 3.5% pay raise last July 1st. That’s unfair, almost cruelly so in face of the unfolding economic ravages

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Lessons from the Collapse

We are obviously living history that no one in the future would like to repeat.  So, what are the lessons to be learned? There are many small-scale lessons.  Wash your hands more often.  Don’t touch your face so much.  But what are the lessons we can learn from the big policies which have been implemented in the run up to this catastrophe?  At the federal level it is fair to say that, at least when it comes to economics, the policy has been to cut taxes, run deficits, and slash most non-military spending.  Apparently, this was supposed to result in

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Balancing Virus Response With Economic And General Health Consequences

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The coronavirus is not the only threat we face. As I wrote in The Hill on last Thursday and The Wall Street Journal editorialized last Friday, we may face a far greater threat from a collapsed economy, which would devastate everyone’s financial and medical condition. This should be of special concern in Connecticut which entered the current crisis already economically anemic and financially shaky. While this may not be popular to say, we should rethink shutdown policies in Connecticut. Actually, it may not be unpopular. A new Pew Research Center poll shows that 70 percent of Americans see the virus

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Jahncke: Tolling Revenues Won’t Add Up

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There’s a new game in Connecticut. It’s called dodge-a-gantry. Right now, it is only a virtual game being played on Google Maps. Governor Lamont latest toll plan – he’s had many – is to toll only tractor-trailer trucks at just 12 highway bridges in the state. So what are truckers doing? They are getting ready to game Lamont’s proposed system. They are researching the best toll evasion routes, i.e. the best local roads to use to bypass the intended highway gantry locations. The governor and his advisors have failed to take into account a unique and fundamental obstacle to imposing

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Connecticut’s Hospital Tax Exploits Medicaid to Finance Irresponsible State Spending

Hartford is exploiting an anomaly in the Medicaid program to extract billions from the U.S. Treasury, not to finance health care, but rather to finance otherwise unaffordable state spending, primarily state employee health care and retirement benefits. This anomaly, or “shell game” (the term used in a U.S. Senate committee report) operates through the hospital tax. While all states impose this tax, no state imposes nearly as high a hospital tax rate. That’s what former Office of Policy and Management Director Ben Barnes told me in late 2017. He said Connecticut’s hospital tax scheme requires explicit federal approval, because the

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Opinion: Lessons of a Manure Pile

I was fortunate enough to grow up in a family that made their living as dairy and potato farmers. This meant lots of good old- fashioned farm work, but it also meant I could have a horse. That started a journey that lead me to the upper reaches of the equestrian world, but that is a story for another day Today I was out in the barn cleaning the stalls of my rescue horse “Wesley” and my miniature rescue donkey “Donkay Hoyate.” As I pushed the wheelbarrow out to the manure pile — I refer to this as wheelbarrow aerobics —

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Opinion: The Ongoing Game of Whack-a-Toll

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Highway tolls in Connecticut have become a game of whack-a-mole. Governor Lamont’s toll mole has popped up again, after having been whacked summarily by General Assembly leaders of his own party less than two weeks ago. The current mole is a variant of the Governor’s original trucks-only campaign proposal. Things have gone full circle. The whole toll mole game started with candidate Lamont’s vague trucks-only plan. Lamont whacked his own proposal after his inauguration, saying that truck tolls alone wouldn’t raise enough money. He added cars, and presented a sketchy 8-page plan with a smothering network of as many as

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Opinion: Vanishing Inequality, the Devil’s Greatest Trick

One of my favorite movies is the 1995 whodunit “The Usual Suspects.”  The last line of the film has always stuck with me: “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”  This line originated in a book on Quakerism from 1834 in which John Wikinson wrote, “One of the artifices of Satan is, to induce men to believe that he does not exist.” Phil Gramm and John Early have apparently decided to ape this trick.  Their recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal includes “author’s calculations” implying that our country isn’t really very unequal

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Opinion: The Surprising Income Equality in America

This is a column about a column. On November 4, 2019, the Wall Street Journal published a column entitled “The Truth About Income Inequality,” by Phil Gramm, former U.S. Senator from Texas, and John Early, twice Assistant Commissioner of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The column makes a convincing case that the U.S. enjoys remarkable income equality –  not inequality. This reality flies in the face of the almost universal belief that the U.S. suffers from gross income inequality, which notion serves as the foundation of all the extravagant proposals from one side of the political spectrum, ranging from

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Opinion: On Fixing Connecticut’s Budget

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Connecticut citizens wonder why the state can’t get its budget act together. Why is Connecticut’s infrastructure crumbling when improvements are supposed to be funded by the gas tax? Why can’t we get our heads — or budgets — around healthcare that works for everybody. Our public pensions are grossly underfunded. We’re backsliding when it comes to children and family welfare. All we ever hear is that our young entrepreneurs are leaving the state, and the cost of living continues to rise. All of this is significantly impacted by the way Connecticut budgets. In my 18 years in the General Assembly

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Ferdinand the Bull and Lyme Academy of Fine Arts

We have become addicted to immediate gratification. We want greater rewards with less work. We see that attitude in a stock market driven by traders focused on every move by the Federal Reserve, while fundamental research has been relegated to the back burner. We see it in the news where every mis-step by a politician is recorded on the front page, while little attention is paid to the longer-term consequences of his or her policies. We see it in a decline in community volunteerism. In Old Lyme, we risk losing a cherished institution that is the Lyme Academy of Fine

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On the Trail with Jonnie Edwards

This is really a story about what happened when Patty met Jonnie—that special combustion of personality, a desire to help others, that resulted in a unique therapeutic program called The Next Step. I am here to find out more about what The Next Step is all about.

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