James Redeker, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Transportation, wants to revamp public transportation in Connecticut.
Redeker spoke before a crowd of around 40 Connecticut residents and government employees Thursday night in downtown New Haven, discussing his plans for advancing the Connecticut transportation system. In the commissioner’s keynote address, which followed Mayor John DeStefano Jr.’s remarks about how public transportation can jumpstart New Haven’s economy, Redeker discussed his prior experience redesigning public transportation systems and laid out his vision of a Connecticut running on public transportation.
Before joining Connecticut’s DOT in 2009, Redeker said, he worked for 30 years with New Jersey Transit — New Jersey’s public transportation corporation — and the New Jersey transportation department. While in New Jersey, he was part of a team that invested in a transit system that created thousands of jobs and increased real estate prices by 60 percent in some corridors, he said.
“My plans worked for 30 years in New Jersey. I can apply them here and look forward to doing it,” Redeker said. “But I don’t have 30 years to do it. Neither do you.”
Flourishing a map of his plans for new public transit routes throughout Connecticut, Redeker said he is working to accelerate the development of the state’s transit system. One of his proposals was the introduction of streetcar routes, a concept that has been debated by the Board of Aldermen in recent months. In his speech, Destefano voiced his support of a streetcar system in New Haven.
“The state administration understands that there are key areas of economic development that we are perfectly positioned to [take advantage of],” said DeStefano, adding that a streetcar would contribute to this development.
Redeker offered examples of recent actions the DOT has taken to improve public transit in Connecticut.
In collaboration with municipal officials, Amtrak and MetroNorth, Redeker said, the DOT has uploaded bus and train routes in Connecticut to Google Transit. Additionally, he said, the DOT facilitated the construction of the Fairfield Metro station, which will open this Monday.
In an interview with the News after the talk, Redeker said public-private partnerships with organizations like Yale have helped drive the DOT’s accomplishments. One such accomplishment is New Haven’s “Complete Streets” initiative, which promotes street design to encourage cycling and walking in addition to motor vehicle transit.
“Yale has given a little push and a lot of support working through the ‘complete streets’ idea,” Redeker added. “They approached us early on about developing a bike-friendly environment, and then we pushed for an expansion of bike racks at the train station.”
Matthew Shapiro, an energy engineer who said the state’s transportation system is holding it back from increased development, said he is excited to hear about the initiatives that the DOT is pursuing, because “public transportation is an investment that pays off in so many respects.”
Craig Yannes, a transportation engineer at the engineering consulting firm Fuss & O’Neill, said it was a “good sign” that the DOT was pursuing so many bicycle and pedestrian-related initiatives, though he had not previously heard about them.
The speech was the second in a public speaker series hosted by 1000 Friends of Connecticut. The first featured Daniel Esty LAW ’86, commissioner of Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, and its final speaker event, to be held in Hartford in January, will host Commissioner Catherine Smith of the state’s Department of Economic and Community Development.