Will we be zipping around town Jetsons-style by the year 2020? Probably not, but the future of transportation in Connecticut will likely be quite different than it is now.
You can forget those highway headaches, hopefully. Fast forward ten years, and you'll probably find far more of us riding the rails. Don't expect to see a Japanese bullet train speeding through our state, but high speed is a high priority. That's because the feds are handing out $8 billion for those projects around the country.
Here in our area, we may see that long talked about, but stalled, commuter line from New Haven to Springfield.
"I think the next 12 months will be key to whether this actually moves forward or not," said state senator Donald DeFronzo, (D) New Britain, who chairs the legislature's transportation committee. The project is gaining some momentum and, if approved, could be operational in about five years, according to transportation officials.
"It would open up all of central Connecticut to rapid commute into New York City and the opportunity that presents for development in Connecticut would be enormous," said DeFronzo. Of course, that's barring political problems and funding fights in a tough economy.
Also in Connecticut, the fate of the New Britain to Hartford busway should be decided soon, after being stuck in park for about 12 years. But it looks like lawmakers may still not be lining up to hop on board. "With all the discussion about rail these days, there's been some discussion about maybe we ought to substitute rail for the busway," said DeFronzo.
When it comes to cars in a decade, expect them to cruise closer to driving themselves. Some cars can already park themselves, or have options to assist a driver with parking. Also, Volvo already has technology allowing cars to automatically brake when you creep too close to another car, said Chip Gengras of the Gengras Auto Group. Also, the company offers similar features that help prevent car-pedestrian accidents, said Gengras.
"They've done some real intense safety work on their vehicles, which I think you'll see more and more of," said Gengras. "Drive themselves, I'm not sure."
When it comes to gadgets, your car could easily act like a bank in a decade. We could see EZ Pass style debit systems that would work in fast food drive thrus, technology that would put the brakes on cash payments.
Expect to see smaller cars, and you'll see more diesel models on the roads, according to the experts.
Electric cars, like the Chevy Volt due out next year, and even hydrogen cars will likely be the new 'wow' wheels.
The question: will the infrastructure be in place to support those kinds of cars? "Right now, it's pretty easy to go to a gas station and fill up," said Jonathan Gengras of the Gengras Auto Group.
As technology speeds up over the next ten years, there's no crystal ball to forecast exactly what changes we will see with transportation in Connecticut. However, all indications point to a big shift from a car and highway centered state, to one where mass transit truly makes its mark.