Col. Sam Colt, arguably Hartford's greatest 19th-century industrialist, understood that his workers needed places to live, and so built housing near his armory, some of which still stands. Other industrialists did the same. It is a model we might want to revisit.
As The Courant recently reported, many Hartford workers who commute to low-paying jobs in the suburbs are being clobbered by sharply rising gas prices.
With relatively few service jobs in the city, many workers are forced to commute 40 miles a day or more, often in older and inefficient cars, to make ends meet. A $50 to $70 fill-up begins to cut into the food budget.
This is one of the many serious byproducts of postwar suburban sprawl that spread jobs and housing hither and yon and made the state heavily dependent on autos. It more or less worked when cars and gas were cheap. Those days are over.
In the short term, officials need to improve bus and van transit as much as possible. Workers going from population centers such as Hartford to job sites such as Bradley airport or the University of Connecticut should be able to make decent bus connections.
In the long term, public policy has to encourage affordable housing in city and town centers near job sites — or near transit stops so people can get to job sites. At the same time, incentives to employers should encourage them to locate in places that are accessible to workers.
Sam Colt put housing and factories together 150 years ago because he knew his workers couldn't travel very far. When gas hits $5 a gallon, we will be back to the future.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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