by Krysia Solheim
The New Haven community has consistently voiced opposition to the State’s plan to build a new $50 million parking garage for Union Station in New Haven, and the State has failed to adequately respond to our concerns, requests, and comments on the design and the environmental impact assessment.
The New Haven community wants new infrastructure and development to prioritize people, not cars. Currently, 30 percent of New Haven residents, including myself, do not own a car. We want a city with better mass transit and better cycling and pedestrian infrastructure and connectivity. We do not want more parking garages or more public space allocated to cars.
We also want development to support healthy lifestyles and enable a vital New Haven.
New Haven residents suffer from the highest rates of asthma hospitalization in the state – the neighborhood surrounding Union Station is an asthma hot spot. Air quality will continue to worsen if the garage is built because more people will drive to Union Station instead of using more sustainable modes of transportation to get there.
The State has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent below 2001 levels by 2050 and the City of New Haven is in the process of committing to the same target. Transportation emissions account for 36 percent (2013 inventory) of Connecticut’s greenhouse gas emissions. They account for about 26 percent of US greenhouse gas emissions. It is astounding then, that the State wants to spend $50 million on a garage that will only induce more people to drive instead of investing funds to induce more people to walk, bike, and take transit.
Greenhouse gas emissions are a regional and global issue and the State should be seriously considering environmental impacts and how to protect people, especially low-income environmental justice communities who have long borne the brunt of pollution and are the most vulnerable to climate change impacts.
The City of New Haven and the New Haven Parking Authority understand what the community wants and should be allowed to continue to manage Union Station. They have invested in multimodal connectivity to the station, including a free downtown shuttle with GPS and bike parking infrastructure, and have plans for further transportation oriented development in line with this area’s needs.
I have lived most of my life abroad and have seen wonderful examples of cities that have invested in their train stations and multimodal connectivity to ensure that their communities have reliable access to jobs, that they have clean air, and that they do not have to spend a burdensome portion of their income on transportation or subsidizing the increasing costs of maintaining infrastructure for cars.
I strongly believe that the City of New Haven and the New Haven Parking Authority are best equipped to bring similar forward thinking planning and infrastructure to Union Station and the Greater New Haven region.
Krysia Solheim is the owner and founder of Viosimo, an environmental sustainability consulting firm. She holds a Bachelor of Science with Honors in Environmental Science from the University of Arizona with minors in Spanish, Arabic, and Chinese; and a Masters in Environmental Management from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. Born in Arizona, Krysia grew up in Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Thailand, Cyprus, Venezuela, and Qatar. She speaks English, Spanish, and Greek fluently and intermediate Chinese and Arabic, has dual American and Greek citizenship, and is a resident of New Haven.