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Busway Gets Its Four Millionth Ride; Statewide Fare Increases on Horizon

Ryan Caron King
A train passes by the CTfastrak bus station on Kane Street in Hartford.

About a year and a half into operation, the state’s first bus rapid transit system CTfastrak has served its four millionth ride, state officials announced last Tuesday.

In a statement, Governor Dannel Malloy said ridership numbers show the busway is being embraced by the public.

“From health care visits for senior citizens, to the daily commute for some of our most well-known corporate partners, CTfastrak has become a popular mode of travel,” Malloy said.

The state Department of Transportation said they see about 10,000 rides on CTfastrak on the average weekday. With the addition of ridership on local buses, the regional totals are between 17,000 and 18,000 rides a day. Before CTfastrak was built, the state says the daily transit ride total was closer to 8,000. 

DOT’s aim is to attract new riders with faster and more frequent service with extended operating hours. That comes with a price tag beyond the roughly $560 million the busway infrastructure took to build; CTfastrak now receives about $17 million in yearly taxpayer subsidies.

CTfastrak stretches from Hartford to New Britain and extends past the dedicated busway infrastructure with express lines to Waterbury, Bristol, Southington, Cheshire, and Manchester Community College. Expansion of local bus services east of the Connecticut River is underway, but the launch of a CTfastrak bus line to the University of Connecticut's Storrs campus has been pushed back to late 2017. 

Bus and Rail Fare Increases  

Facing a $37 million cut to their operating budget, DOT officials announced it will hold several public hearings before incorporating a fare increase in December. 

The next hearing will be at the Hartford Public Library on September 7 starting at 4:00 pm. The following week, there will be a midday hearing at the Meriden Town Hall.

State bus fares would go up by 25 cents, and Metro-North fares on the New Haven Line and Shore Line East would go up five percent. The higher fare rate is expected to generate $5.9 million dollars.

FRA Faces Backlash in Old Lyme

The feds are facing opposition from residents of Old Lyme over a proposal to build a high-speed rail line through the southeastern part of the state.

The Federal Railroad Administration is still in the first phase of planning to overhaul the Northeast Corridor, the busiest commuter rail system in the country. On the table for consideration are four plans – three of which include major modifications to the current infrastructure. One plan includes a new line from Hartford to Providence – and the most ambitious and expensive plan includes a tunnel under Long Island Sound between Suffolk, New York and New Haven.

“Alternative 1,” while the smallest in scope of the the plans that include new development, includes a coastal bypass that would run through Old Lyme’s historic district, which has been protested by both residents and lawmakers.

As the Connecticut Mirrorreports, Sen. Richard Blumenthal voiced strong opposition at a meeting in Old Lyme last Wednesday:

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and a pair of state lawmakers said they would tie themselves down on the rail tracks if the proposal is accepted as-is. “They will, in fact, have to untie me from the tracks,” Blumenthal said. The crowd responded with thunderous applause.

The “No Action Alternative,” which has been recommended by Malloy, would focus on fixing existing infrastructure. 

The FRA is expected to recommend its preferred alternative this fall.

Ryan Caron King joined Connecticut Public in 2015 as a reporter and video journalist. He was also one of eight reporters on the New England News Collaborative’s launch team, covering regional issues such as immigration, the environment, transportation, and the opioid epidemic.

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