Bruce Kasanoff is a Westport-based ghostwriter and former Planning & Zoning commissioner who works with entrepreneurs. He is also — most importantly for this story — a Metro-North rider.
Well, he rides when the trains are running. Which is not as often as he — or the rest of us — would like.
Yesterday, Forbes.com published his opinion piece: “Fix This Bridge, Or Connecticut Dies.” Bruce began:
I’m a big fan of bringing out the best in others, but even an optimist like me knows that when people act like they have rocks in their heads, to make progress you might have to bang some heads together.
Commuters who live in Connecticut and work in New York City are all in favor of banging some heads together. Most depend on the Metro-North train system to bring them in and out of the city. Over the past two years, service has gone from pretty good to consistently horrible – and it’s about to get worse.
Bruce described the issues, like fatal accidents that led (via additional safety requirements) to longer train rides and the stuck-twice-in-8-days South Norwalk bridge. He continued:
Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy was outraged by the latest failure, which I know because his office immediately issued a press release that said, “Let me be clear, this is outrageous.”
The problem is, Metro-North doesn’t own the bridge. Connecticut does.
The governor blames Metro-North. The train system blames Connecticut. Connecticut blames the federal government. Yadda, yadda, yadda.
By the way, the repair tag for that bridge is somewhere around $465 million, according to ConnDOT, but my guess is someone just made that number up.
Meanwhile, hedge fund executives ride that train. Asset managers, too. The people who fund half the world, ride that train. If no one can figure out how to keep the infrastructure working between here and New York City, how good a job do you think we are doing keeping bridges and trains and highways safe in Nebraska and Florida and Arizona… and where you live?
Here’s a hint: walk, it’s safer.
The truth is, we stopped paying for our infrastructure decades ago, in favor of a higher standard of living. Now our infrastructure is falling apart, and it’s going to cost a bloody fortune to replace it. Get used to it. Our standard of living is going to go down a bit, and we are all going to have to tighten our belts.
Personally, I don’t care whether we pay for new infrastructure via taxes or tolls. It doesn’t matter to me whether private industry or government solves the problem. But if it becomes impossible to get from the Connecticut suburbs to Manhattan in less than two hours, the value of every property in southwestern Connecticut will plummet by 50% or more. Add up the cost of that decline, and it will dwarf $400 million.
By the way, I’m almost certain that you have similar problems wherever you live. The blame-the-other-guy virus has spread around the world.
Bruce is not impressed with Metro-North’s responses. But he is not letting anyone else off the hook either. He concludes:
It’s time for actual leadership – not just bluster and empty words – from everyone: state and federal politicians, business leaders, private companies, even commuters. If we can’t keep the trains running on time, then we might as well abandon all pretenses of living in a modern civilization.
To read Bruce’s entire piece, click on Forbes.com.)