Gov. Dannel Malloy visited New Haven last week to outline his transportation plans for both the city and the state.
In Malloy’s inaugural address on Jan. 7, the governor highlighted the importance of transportation for economic development across the state. Since that address, Malloy has toured the state, introducing small parts of his plan at different cities along the way. While the full extent of the plan has not been unveiled, Malloy and his administration have pegged the timetable to complete this transportation revitalization plan at 30 years or longer.
In New Haven, specifically, the governor stressed promoting bicyclist and pedestrian safety as key in helping improve transportation across the city — a priority that echoes current goals being pursued by Mayor Toni Harp and her administration. He held his press conference at the intersection of Route 34 and Orange Street, a critical bike lane in the region.
“When Malloy comes down and talks about alternative transportation, he speaks words that I’ve never heard a governor say,” Director of Transportation for the City of New Haven Doug Hausladen ’04 said, expressing excitement about the governor’s recent announcements.
Hausladen explained that 45 percent of New Haven residents do not drive to work. In order to make the transit system in the city function better, residents should be able to choose biking and walking as an option to get to work. He added that, alongside Harp, making biking and walking a plausible option for transportation has been a top priority for the city’s Department of Transportation.
A recently published report co-authored by the Greater New Haven Job Access and the Transportation Working Group, produced by DataHaven, showed that one in four New Haven households do not have access to a car. The report revealed that many heads of families were unemployed not because they could not find a job, but because they could not get to their jobs.
“Part of our priority is making alternative transportation a new true, viable option for citizens commuting to work,” Hausladen said.
The mayor already has devised strategies on how to confront this issue. Traffic calming measures are being implemented throughout the city, according to City Hall spokesperson Laurence Grotheer. These measures include speed bumps and curb bump-outs, which are used to narrow streets where there are crosswalks and intersections. The goal, Grotheer said, is to keep cars, trucks and buses from going too fast so they are aware of the shared use of the road.
New Haven Economic Development Administrator Matthew Nemerson SOM ’81 added that most people on bikes are not expert riders, and thus riding through the center of the city often makes them feel uncomfortable.
“We’re putting more money into our capital budges for next year to add more bike lanes,” Nemerson said. “We’re trying to find money to build a divided bike lane which means that people would be able to ride on the road but with a protected curb.”
Aside from its focus on bicyclists and pedestrians, the city is also working to improve transportation on the regional level. The mayor is collaborating with the State Department of Transportation and CT Transit in order to expand and improve the current bus system, Hausladen said.
He explained that although there is 100 percent transit penetration in New Haven — residents can get anywhere within the city itself with the existing bus lines in less than one hour and a half — there is only 30 percent penetration in the Greater New Haven Region. This lack of bus lines is another aggravator for those who cannot drive to work.
“We want to make the bus system an asset rather than what it is right now, a very expensive network that does not do all that it should and that it can,” Hausladen said.
Elm City officials are also committed to improving residents’ access to the rest of the region. Hausladen and others are working with state senators and Malloy to improve both the airport and the rail system in the city.
Hausladen highlighted that though these numerous initiatives could take a long time to complete, he believes Malloy’s support will certainly help the projects move along.
“We need to be able to invest in transportation, which is what Malloy came to do,” Hausladen said. “This is very exciting for transportation in New Haven.”