Category Archives: Transportation

Electric Car Club Charges Ahead

Westporters own 266 electric vehicles. That’s the 3rd highest number in Connecticut. Greenwich leads, with 511.

But — at 1% of our total registered vehicles — we do rank first in the largest number of EVs per capita. That’s 3.5 times the statewide average.

Those are a few of the interesting facts to come from the Connecticut EV Club. That’s the new name for the Westport Electric Car Club. As EV popularity rises — there are 35% more plug-in vehicles in the state than a year ago — the local organization is growing too.

Robin Tauck (center) lent selectmen Jim Marpe and Avi Kaner (left) her 2 electric vehicles at an Electric Car rally. Kaner liked driving it so much, he bought this Tesla P85D model. On the right is former Westport Electric Car Club president Leo Cirino.

Bruce Becker is taking over from founder and longtime president Leo Cirino.

Other changes include partnerships with groups like the Acadia Center and Lime Rock Historic Festival, plus conversations with state transportation and energy officials.

One upcoming initiative: lobbying legislators to change the law prohibiting Tesla from selling directly to customers. (Connecticut allows cars to be purchased only through independent dealerships. Tesla sells direct from the manufacturer.)

State residents have reserved over 3,000 Model 3s — Tesla’s highly anticipated $35,000 vehicle. Club officer Barry Kresch estimates that 250 to 300 of those are in Westport.

So — despite the club’s name change —  our town will continue to have an outsize influence on statewide EV policy and affairs. “This is an environmental-thinking place,” Kresch says. “Its leaders are very green-conscious.”

And, he says, with 20 or so public charging stations — including both train stations, the library and Staples High School — Westport’s commitment to electric vehicles remains strong.

(For more information on the Connecticut EV Club click here.)

Electric vehicles lined up by the Staples charging stations (from left): Chevy Bolt, Tesla S, VW, Tesla X, Nissan Leaf.

Drag-gone!

After nearly 8 years in Westport, Dragone Classic Motorcars has driven off from the Post Road.

It’s not rent. It’s not lack of interest. The popular vintage auto dealer just needed more space.

A lot more space.

There was 11,000 square feet in the Westport showroom, and another 10,000 square feet in a Bridgeport restoration facility. Vice president George Dragone hauled himself — and Packards, DeSotos, Bugattis, T-Birds and more — back and forth, several times a day.

The Dragone showroom in Westport.

They’re consolidating everything in a 66,000-square foot building in Orange. That’s great news for them.

But not so great for their many loyal Westport customers.

“I hope they’ll continue coming to Orange,” Dragone says. “I still have a lot of connections to Westport. I was just at the Historical Society, in fact.

“But we needed a larger facility. We couldn’t show off our cars the way we wanted to.”

The site on Post Road West, across from Kings Highway Elementary School, has a storied automotive history. The Small Car Company — a Volkswagen dealer — moved in around 1959. Dragone took over from its successor, Saab of Westport.

There’s no word yet on who will move in there. Maybe a medical marijuana dispensary?

Beware Of Bicyclists. And Bicyclists: Beware!

Our long winter of  nor’easters is over (we hope). Spring is here. Up pop daffodils. Dandelions. And bicyclists.

Westporters are not always great at sharing roadways. An alert — and upset — “06880” reader writes:

My pet peeve is bicyclists in town and their road manners.

Today a guy headed north on Hillspoint towards the old Positano’s and Elviras. As I approached at a distance I briefly tapped my horn. When I came around him I was completely in the other lane, making sure I was more than 3 feet away.

I made a full stop at the sign. The cyclist blasted by me on the right without any attempt at stopping.

I hit the horn to express my displeasure. He offered a 1-finger salute as he weaved around the pedestrians, and ignored the Cadillac trying to turn into Old Mill. Here’s the video:

 

Westport Police are aware of the issue. They say: “Westport is here for everyone to enjoy. Let’s share the road and be courteous so cyclists, pedestrians and motorists can make it safely to their destinations.”

They advise bicyclists:

  • Ride where you are expected to be seen. Travel in the same direction as traffic. Signal and look over your shoulder before changing lanes or turning.
  • Riding more than 2 abreast is against the law, except in designated bike lanes. Those riding 2 abreast cannot impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic.
  • Wear equipment to make you more visible to others, like bright and reflective clothing. Outfit your bicycle with reflectors, a white front light and red rear light.
  • Always wear a helmet.
  • Tuck and tie your shoe laces and pant legs so they don’t get caught in your bike chain.
  • Obey all traffic rules and signs. Always give proper hand signals.
  • Always ride with the traffic — as close as possible to the right side of the road.
  • Ride in designated bike lanes when present.
  • Be sure the roadway is clear before entering.
  • Yield right of way to pedestrians.
  • Pass pedestrians and other bicyclists with care by first announcing “on your left” or “passing on your left,” or use a bell.
  • Slow down and look for cars backing out of driveways or turning.

Westport roads sometimes seem like this.

Friday Flashback #86

Two weeks ago, our Friday Flashback showed the unchanging nature of an important downtown crossroads.

A time traveler from decades ago would have no difficulty today recognizing the Westport Bank & Trust building (though some of the fashions at the present tenant, Patagonia, might surprise her).

Across Church Lane, the transformation of the Westport Weston YMCA into Bedford Square has altered — but not radically changed — the streetscape.

Of course, it did not always look that way.

Here’s a view of Main Street, at what was then called “The Square” (note the horse watering trough in the middle). The building on the right was replaced by the Westport Hotel — which itself was replaced in 1923 by E.T. Bedford’s gift to the town, the YMCA.

(Photo courtesy of Westport Historical Society)

Another view — looking west up the Post Road, toward the Saugatuck River — shows the building on the Main Street corner (on the right) from another angle.

(Photo courtesy of Westport Historical Society)

Check out the trolley. It provided great local transportation, with branches running from downtown to Saugatuck and Compo Beach.

And where was the trolley barn?

Somewhere on Church Lane. So — despite its current unchanging look — that area was indeed different, back in the day.

(Photo courtesy of Paul Ehrismann)

Fresh Market Foursome

“06880′ has frequently posted photos of drivers who take up 2 parking spaces.

Occasionally, we highlight those who manage to hog 3.

But this may be the first time we’ve run a shot of someone who managed to park one car across 4 different spots.

This may be our worst parker yet.

Or our most entitled.

PS: This was not someone leaving the lot. Photographer Merri Mueller sent other photos, from different — and equally egregious — angles.

(Photo/Merri Mueller)

Pic Of The Day #353

Man on Westport train tracks (Photo/Suzanne Tanner)

New Daybreak Proposal: 9 Homes

First it was 12 units. Then 11. Now it’s 9.

Able Construction filed an application with the Planning & Zoning Department yesterday to build 9 units on the former Daybreak property, near Merritt Parkway Exit 42.

As before, the units are 2,000 square feet, with 2 bedrooms. All will be restricted: The owner-occupant must be 55 years or older.

One thing has changed. Plans now call for only one entrance and exit, on Weston Road. A cul-de-sac eliminates one of the reasons cited by neighbors in previous hearings: potential traffic hazards with an entrance on Main Street.

Plans for the Daybreak property. Weston Road is at the top; Easton Road and Main Street run diagonally from the upper left.

Able believes the market is there for Westporters who want to downsize from larger homes.

Under current 1/2-acre zoning, builders could construct 4 houses, of a few thousand square feet and with several bedrooms.

Or someone could propose an 8-30g project (multiple units, some of which are deemed affordable housing) on the site.

Plans for a typical unit proposed for the former Daybreak property.

Pic Of The Day #348

The Easter Bunny hopped down the Post Road earlier this afternoon. (Photo/Hannah Hall)

Pic Of The Day #347

I-95 bridge (Photo/Peter Barlow)

Pic Of The Day #345

Just another car at the gym (Photo/Karen Como)