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IN PROGRESS: Hartford-New Britain Busway/ CTFastrak


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and today, funding was finalized. Construction starts this spring.

and one more little jab I read I think over the weekend about this....

the 22000 daily passenger trips they are after, or whatever the number is includes existing riders, and I finally read the number of new trips they are after.... 5000

mutha futha! 6 billion dollars, 11 stations 9 miles of pavement for 5000 passenger trips per day.... thats just 2500 people commuting to and from work each day.!!! not even to mention the loss of train tracks and such

oh well, at least there was also an article about the commuter rail in the HBJ (2016 completion date)

Edited by The Voice of Reason
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I applaud the decision to go ahead with the busway; there's a lot in here to like. The route serves low and middle income populations historically ignored by state transportation planners. The busway will be used, just not (at first or exclusively) by the upper middle class suburban repatriates always posited as the salvation of the state's urban areas. So, the short term effect will be increased access to those who already use or stand to benefit from mass transportation as well as economic windfalls from short-term government investment. And this is all something that can be done right now.

More broadly, the Hartford region has seen a steady shift toward a more sober assessment of how to allocate state resources, one that focuses on incremental, steady, responsive improvement as well as eschewing a vision of a final state -- i.e. the pretty pictures of a "finished" Hartford with one-off attractions and shiny urban renewal projects. The busway is an example of this; so is the public safety complex and the emphasis on downtown housing.

In the long run regional mass transportation always strengthens urbanity. Also, New Britain will feel mentally closer to Hartford, especially if there are definite positive economic synergies created between the two downtowns. This is a good development from a regional perspective.

VoR, I'm not sure what you mean by existing riders. Does that mean riders taken from city buses? If so, the busway will be a giant improvement in quality for those who switch. City buses can also be reassigned or curtailed, which should help with either operating costs and coverage. Lastly, I believe the total cost is also $567 million; I'm not sure where you're getting $6 billion.

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Almost every U.S. busway has failed. They work pretty well in places like Bogata, Columbia that are teeming with poor people.

There is a huge difference between well designed regional mas transit and busways. One works and one doesn't.

The Griffin Line was a terrific idea. It was killed. This is a boondoogle. It got approved. The key to any project in Connecticut is how much goes through the DOT to unions to be funneled back to Democrats. it's a sad state of affairs.

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In my opinion, the busway as planned doesn't make a lot of sense.

But nobody asked me.

For what its worth, I would have considered putting the effort and resources into realigning a small segment of tracks so New Britain could be on the New Haven - Springfield line. The older alignment would still be used as a bypass.

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Beerbeer, BRT systems with dedicated infrastructure have been a success even in the U.S. Where cities have slapped the BRT name onto limited stop city buses the service hasn't been what's promised -- you can't get something for nothing. As to your other point, there are a lot of poor and working class people living in Hartford and New Britain (as an aside, many are from Brazil) that already use the bus and deserve to have their transportation needs addressed.

Bill, commuter rail offers a different service -- trains every half hour compared with busway frequencies of less than five minutes at peak. I'd argue that the latter service is more valuable and also won't preclude commuter rail in other parts of the region. In fact, the two systems should benefit one-another.

At any rate, looks like it's going to happen. I think (hope) your concerns will be proven wrong.

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VoR, I'm not sure what you mean by existing riders. Does that mean riders taken from city buses? If so, the busway will be a giant improvement in quality for those who switch. City buses can also be reassigned or curtailed, which should help with either operating costs and coverage. Lastly, I believe the total cost is also $567 million; I'm not sure where you're getting $6 billion.

yeah, I know the actual price is just over half a billion, so instead of using 6 billion, my point would have better been made with the figure, 6 BAZILLION as it was a hyperbole, sorry for the confusion.

yes city busses can be reassigned, but who gives a crap when this 600 million dollar project is only capable of taking 5000 people off the road. yes it creates jobs for certain people, butit will not create economic impact like rail, or like spending 600 million on new apartment towers in downtown New Britain and in dowtown Hartford. its an absolutely stupid idea. STUPID! I lived in Auckland when they build and opened a busway.... yippee, the busway required people north of Auckland to drive south to Albany, get off the motorway and get onto a bus. by the time you park and get on a bus you would have been in takapuna, and the only thing in your way at that point is the bridge, and well thats why they built the busway because its 290 million NZD pricetag was quite a bit cheaper than a new bridge or tunnel, and there was no way to further expand the existing bridge. fyi 290 NZD is about 200 million US.

in addition, they didnt have a robust bus service before, unlike Hartford, where we have tons of bus traffic between NB and Hartford.

the NZ busway took 500 cars out of the peak commute per day, and is estimated to reach 5100 per day in the future. while that is great, it is but a scratch on the surface of the traffic issue.

tell me that there was no traffic monday tuesday wednesday and today through that part of 84.... the holiday had taken far more than 500 workers off the road. I had traffic every day(except I am not working today, so today might have been OK. but the busway is an intense expense for such minor gains and limited high end potential while the begining of a rail netowrk has much more potential for both passenger load and future expansion and connectivity. and a rail system would also allow the city buses to be re-routed.

5000 new bus riders "max capacity" $560,000,000.00

112,000 per rider.....

I would LOVE to eat crow on this one as I adore public transit, but I just do not see it happening. The asphalt lobby wins another!

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Bill, commuter rail offers a different service -- trains every half hour compared with busway frequencies of less than five minutes at peak. I'd argue that the latter service is more valuable and also won't preclude commuter rail in other parts of the region. In fact, the two systems should benefit one-another.

while I agree, a busway or limited stop bus service feeding a commuter rail is a great option, it is not the backbone system we need, its more like a vestigial tail.

also 30/minutes per train is just the moronic inception concept for commuter rail some places. commuter rail can and is typically run on the 15 minutes, and can be even more regular. 5,10, and minutes are the longest spaces between trains in the morning commute times from the North concord station of BART. there are some 15 minuted gaps, and some 20 minute gaps after 9am. This is a far off station at the end of a line, so its not even where two lines cross, those stations get trains every couple of minutes. trains can be stacked up just as much as busses can, but a bus can hold 55 prople, a train can hold 1000. (future state.... concert ends at XL center, 16000 people pour out of the arena and walk to the bus station, and load busses 50 at a time.... sure the busses were perfectly co-ordinated and the entire fleet was there to greet the crowd, all 50? 80? busses... they slowly leave one by one until they are all gone with 2500? 4000? people? then the good people of hartford wait and hang out at the bus stop. :) or the train swings by, loads 1000 in the time it takes to fill 2-3 busses and wisks them off to NB, Bristol, or even waterbury. each train comes in 5 minutes another train, then another, and thats without stacking every train up.

So, while a bus is more flexible than a train, the train can much more efficiently cary a more diverse clientele (and their bikes) MUCH FASTER with less pollution.

besides the panache of being a train city actually matters to young professionals in deciding where to live.

but I too admit its happening and hope it "works" better than anyone imagined and wets the appetite for the NH-H-S commuter rail forcing them to expand rapidly!

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  • 5 months later...

Can we make an "In Progress" thread for the busway project now that construction has started? Recently I would pass the corner of Park and Francis or the corner of New Park and Flatbush and saw work crews clearing these spaces and would wonder what was going on. I never made the connection that construction was getting ready for busway stations. I guess because I am not a fan of this project, I never really followed it and because of it, never made the connection.

And can someone explain something to me? I thought the whole concept of this project was to pave over existing rail lines.. is that still happening? Because when you go to the CT Fastrak website http://www.ctfastrak.com/index.php/en and look at the site plans, it shows the busway as a paved road NEXT to existing Amtrack lines which are still obviously in use.

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it is paving over rail right of way in most cases. I think the rail bed was 4+ tracks wide

it is taking up a great dfeal of that space, but leaving some rail there. The real issue is that at one point along the route the busway squeezes out the rail down to 1 track, so it virtually eliminates the ability to put commuter rail through the area without major MAJOR changes.

thats my understanding anyways

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At one point I asked someone with the city why we didn't just buy trains and use existing rails rather than pave them over. He told me it would be virtually impossible without raising the tracks above existing roads (he pointed out the intersections like we see at Flatbush, Hamilton, etc.) because with trains running every 10 minutes at peak, you would virtually stop traffic constantly at rush hour which would be disastrous.

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so it begins... i cannot see how this succeeds

Agreed. I hope I am wrong, but there is a stigma attached to riding city busses everywhere and I don't think this will be any different. I also thought that these busway stations would be enclosed. Looking at the website they clearly are not. Of course the renderings show nice summer days... what commuter is going to wait in sub freezing temperatures or inclement weather at these outdoor stops?

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Agreed. I hope I am wrong, but there is a stigma attached to riding city busses everywhere and I don't think this will be any different. I also thought that these busway stations would be enclosed. Looking at the website they clearly are not. Of course the renderings show nice summer days... what commuter is going to wait in sub freezing temperatures or inclement weather at these outdoor stops?

I don't think the buses are quite that bad. In 2007 I was working downtown and didn't need my car to leave work for the day. For a couple of months I took the express bus in and out from Glastonbury. I was pleasantly surprised with the experience. If I didn't need to travel during the work day, I would definitely still use the bus.

The intra city buses are another story. I've never used those.

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  • 4 months later...

http://www.courant.com/community/hartford/hc-busway-1004-20121003,0,7615952.story

And the busway construction begins in earnest. I get that the cost is high, but surely there are some benefits to this project. I would have rather seen commuter rail but this will help relieve congestion. Look at the Courant comments though. Why do people hate st so much??? Is it truly the cost? If so, I understand. But is it also an inability to see the forest through the trees for the need of a robust public transit system. Or, is the negative opinion due to something else?

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Its the cost.

the commputer rail from New Haven to Springfield has a nearly identical price tag. it also has a massively larger potential capacity and rail has a much better user demogrpahic that Busses.

and there is also part of the problem.. in America, Busses are seen a the poor mans transit. "I cant afford a car" and that is very un american to people in some weird subconcious way. Busses are usually much dirtier than trains in reality so that connotation is backed up and keeps middle and upper class people from using them..

its not fair, but its how our society worksd I think.

IF this busway cost 300 Million it would still seem excessive. If it cost 150 Million, I think it would be universally supported.

I hate it because for a simular cost we could establish commuter rail between Hartford and Waterbury.... connecting 3X as many people and integrating into the S-H-NH Commuter rail making both projects even more viable.

remember the current bus usage between New Britain and Hartford is very high. its not like they are building an entirely new form of transportation... they are just building another highway for busses and increasing volume by like 20%. busses that allready ply that route. If they did rail, the busses would still be running, and busses would be feeding the rail network, so bus ridership would rise, rail usage would begin and many many more people would get off the roads. therefore the roads would be more affective too!

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  • 2 years later...

I've worked with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit  Authority (WMATA).  Arlington Rapid Transit,  Virginia Railway Express, Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission, and have attended and spoken at numerous American Public Transportation Association conferences. In short, I've worked with bus, fast rail and heavy rail. I am a very big fan of public transportation but have very mixed feeling about Fastrack. 

 

People love trains, they hate buses. Getting them on buses is a tough sell.  Even younger commuters, who are more attracted to public transportation than previous generations have negative feeling toward buses. 

 

The greatest BRT success are outside of America. Hartford has done some things right.  The dedicated route gives it a chance for success. Leaving the route and getting into city traffic, seems like a very bad idea. Look for a few things once service begins.

 

Total ridership numbers, actual trip times, incident (accident or slow downs) rates, off peak ridership, cleanliness, favorability ratings ( a baseline should be established then watch f the ratings go up or down), how these traits trend will give a very good idea if the system is succeeding or failing.

 

BTW, I have rarely seen public transportation reduce traffic although this is usually the major selling point for systems.  It simply allows more people to access the city at peak times.

Edited by beerbeer
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I think a key to Fastrack's success will be the integration with other modes of transportation as well as the integration of new (and existing) development.

 

One of the first headings I saw on http://www.ctfastrak.com/ says "A GREENER WAY TO GROCERIES". I then looked at the station site plans and noticed that the Kane Street station was right next to the Stop n Shop; I could see doing a quick off and back on at this station. As convenient as it is, you still need to negotiate a parking lot between the store and station platform.  So my thinking is: find a way to make this Stop n Shop (and other developments in general) feel like they are part of the station. 

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BTW, I have rarely seen public transportation reduce traffic although this is usually the major selling point for systems.  It simply allows more people to access the city at peak times. 

I tend to look at a rapid transit system differently than most people. I think of a system on a dedicated route as a linear extension of a community. So all of the stores, offices, housing and other developments around stations are part of this extension. If there are any signs of reduced traffic, I see that as a positive by product. 

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I originally wanted LRT; but we are getting BRT, and it has its advantages. 

This will be Connecticut's first rapid transit system. Outside of Boston, it's the only one in New England (I think). This is where Hartford has a chance to pull ahead of other comparatively sized cities. I think that this is the first project that has potential to help Hartford reverse its negative image.

The spine of this system (the CtFastrak conduit) seems to have all the elements of true BRT.

Then there's the question: Will it relieve congestion on I-84? In the very least, express buses from Waterbury, Southington, Bristol, etc. will no longer be part of this congestion; they will enter the New Britain station (a main transfer hub) directly from the highway. After leaving that station, the next express stop is Sigourney Street via the almost straight as an arrow guideway.

 

There is no real fastrak station at Union Station. I am thinking that the long term configuration here is going to depend on the highway/rail reconstruction.
 

Edited by Bill Mocarsky
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I am curious to see if the performance of this system will live up to the claim of being similar to light rail.

 

How smooth will the ride be? How will the bus approach and leave the boarding platforms? My wife has no problem riding trains and subways. However, she doesn't like riding a bus; she gets motion sickness on buses. I think I'll find out if it is a bus or train after I take it with my wife. 

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