Standards of Scrutiny for Transit Projects Not Extended for Highway Projects

A case study of media coverage in Connecticut finds a double standard between the CTFastrak and Interstate 84 projects.

Read Time: 2 minutes

October 2, 2015, 2:00 PM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Joseph Cutrufo examines the discrepancies in the scrutiny afforded two transit projects in Connecticut: CTfastrak and the widening of Interstate 84 in Waterbury. Cutrufo begins by noting the similarities between the two projects: "They’re both major transportation projects aimed at improving mobility, both became visible to the traveling public in the spring of 2015, and both cost hundreds of millions of dollars."

Yet despite those similarities, "it seems that the Connecticut Department of Transportation is being asked to justify the amount it’s spending on the bus rapid transit service, while spending on major highway projects seems to be accepted without much media scrutiny."

Seemingly opposed to the CTFastrak, is the Hartford Courant, which has reported and editorialized about a large jump in costs for the system. Cutrofo, however, thinks the focus on increased costs misses much of the point:

"It’s a substantial increase, but that original subsidy estimate is eight years old (though ConnDOT Commissioner Redeker probably shouldn’t have been 'quoting the $10 million figure with no caveats or disclaimers' as recently as 2014 — good sleuthing by the Courant). Since then, ConnDOT had expanded its service plan, which makes the system more useful and convenient, which in turn drives up ridership. And it’s working. Average daily ridership, according to the same article, is over 16,000, about 50 percent higher than the expected 11,200 daily riders."

The article includes by noting the lack of analysis or critique for the 2.7-mile widening project on I-84. In effect, according to Cutrofo, the media and the public declare the following: "No more bottleneck? By any means necessary! More money to subsidize bus riders? Let’s see your numbers."

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