A Prescription for a Congested Commute Falls Short

July 11th, 2016

I sat in the soup of Connecticut summer traffic and cursed my commute. Inching along at a merciless pace, all the while melted to my seat on account of an air conditioning system on the fritz, I thought: There has to be a better way.

Then, the next morning, a billboard, no, a beacon, proclaimed to me and my fellow I-95 northbound commuters traversing New Haven’s Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge that there was indeed a better way to get to and from work.

“Feeling congested?” it said, above an image of an approaching train. “Take twice a day.”

Shore Line East billboard

I, and I imagine other eastbound drivers as well, interpreted the prescribing billboard to mean that, instead of taking I-95 to and from work, I could hop aboard a climate-controlled Shore Line East train in the morning and again in the afternoon and avoid the horrors of I-95 traffic entirely.

If only it were that simple.

You see, the first eastbound train from New Haven (where I live) to Madison (where I work) does not leave Union Station until 10:35 a.m. That would get me to my desk at around 11:15 a.m. And while I don’t mind a late start to the day, I don’t think the boss would take to me arriving two hours after everyone else every day. So that’s the first dose of reality.

Then there’s the ordeal of returning home. Because there are no westbound trains out of Madison in the afternoon. There are a few returning trains that make stops in neighboring Guilford but I’d have to take a bus, bike, hitchhike, or otherwise find a ride there because the station is six miles away from TINA.org HQ. There’s no bus, bike or hitchhiker pictured in the billboard. It’s just the train.

On its FAQ page, Shore Line East, which is a state-run rail system that connects to Metro-North’s New Haven Line, which brings travelers to and from New York City, acknowledges that its services are limited for reverse commuters such as myself who leave the Elm City in the morning and return in the afternoon. There, the railroad concedes that its morning service is primarily westbound and its afternoon service primarily eastbound.

Why, then, is there an advertisement suggesting that the trains are widely available to “take twice a day” in place of driving to and from work? This is what I asked the Connecticut Department of Transportation. I am still awaiting their reply.

I am also still waiting in traffic, “congested” and cursing my commute.

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About the Author

Jason Bagley

Jason Bagley, writer at TINA.org, is still romantic about journalism and believes in its power to educate and inform.



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