If “Office Parks” Are Going; More Trains Are Coming.

Hartford, Connecticut, has been known as the “Insurance Capital of the World” and with reason. The home offices of some of the biggest, most venerable insurance companies are in Hartford and have been there forever—the Travelers and the Aetna and the Hartford and the Phoenix and a number of others.

About the time I was graduating from college, the Connecticut General Life Insurance Company moved its offices from the downtown area to the little town of Bloomfield, eight or ten miles away. And they started from scratch: bought a lot of vacant land and built a huge sprawling office complex. It was very modern for the times, with lots of glass. In fact, it was referred to as “the Lever Building on its side” … a reference to the controversial all-glass sky-scraper built a few years earlier on Park Avenue in New York City.
Anyway, Connecticut General employed several thousand people at the time and suddenly they all had to drive to work out in Bloomfield. To accommodate them, two large parking lots were created and, to this day, are on either side of the complex.
The company’s move to Bloomfield was heralded as a whole new concept: getting out of the city centers and the high-rent areas, and into the attractive open spaces of suburbia. As they say, it sure seemed like a good idea at the time. The fact that all those thousands of worker-bees were no longer able to take public transportation to work was never considered by management.
It is now. The days of the so-called “office park” appear to be numbered. Employees want to get to work on public transportation. And it’s especially important for people at the lower end of the pay scale that public transportation be affordable. Business moguls and the community at large had better understand that means public transportation needs to be subsidized. If it isn’t, all those employees working away at minimum and low wages can’t afford to travel from their low-income neighborhoods to the downtown areas.
The bottom line? This trend is good news for proponents of urban transit specifically and passenger rail in general. We’re going to have to move people—more and more of them—quickly, safely and cheaply. And the best way to do that? By train.