Budgetary constraints have forced Connecticut Transit to plan reductions for its New Haven bus service.
But local politicians, environmentalists and bus riders protesting these service cuts, set to begin Jan. 20, believe the bus company’s cuts can come from other places. New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. held a press conference Monday to outline a campaign to retain the bus routes, which could include fare increases.
“We think we can reverse this,” DeStefano said. “We’ve done this thing before.”
The proposed service changes would offer three fewer peak hour buses on the Whitney and Kimberly avenues “J” line. The resulting increase in headway on the “J” line from 15 to 30 minutes would translate into a projected 180-passenger loss each day. Combining the Orange Street “A” route with the State Street “M” route would result in a expected loss of 138 daily passengers and eliminate service to Union Station.
The current regular local service fare is $1.
DeStefano said the need for transit, good public policy and emission reduction all support retention of New Haven’s current bus lines.
“The way Connecticut cities and towns are organized — we need to rely on an integrated transportation system,” DeStefano said.
CT Transit’s proposed cuts run contrary to the Connecticut Statewide Bus System Study, prepared last year by the Connecticut Department of Transportation, which supports expansion of the current bus lines.
Also, the Connecticut Transportation Strategy Board’s initial transportation strategy, due by Jan. 15, is expected to propose increases in state public transportation, including buses.
“The Transportation Strategy Board will be recommending increases, and until the final report is complete, we support maintaining the current levels of service,” said Judy Gott, chairwoman of the I-91 Transportation Investment Area committee.
Additional funding would be required for long-term expansion of the state’s bus service, which would help decrease traffic congestion on the state’s highways. But immediate cutbacks could prevent the future growth of the bus system.
“Fare increases and service cuts can encourage long term decreases in bus ridership,” said Dan Lorimier, a member of the Interstate-95 TIA. “How can Connecticut claim to be seriously confronting its traffic congestion dilemma while it reduces rather than bolsters mass transit operating budgets?”
Health issues related to Connecticut’s traffic congestion also are of concern for proponents of the current bus routes.
“For a city with high asthma rates, a reduction in emissions is an important thing,” DeStefano said.
New Haven has the highest asthma hospitalization rate in the state, said Mark Mitchell of the Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice.
About 4 percent of the Connecticut work force commutes to work by bus. CT Transit hauls over 90 million passengers annually in New Haven.
Members of the public will have the opportunity to voice their opinions at hearings Wednesday at the Hall of Records at noon and 6:30 p.m.