In line with Gov. Dannel Malloy’s focus to improve statewide transportation over the next three decades, Connecticut’s first Bus Rapid Transit system, CTfastrak, debuted this Saturday at the downtown New Britain station.
The idea for a BRT system, which offers no-transfer, high-speed transit, was first brought up in Connecticut in 1997 during Gov. John Rowland’s term. That year, the state commissioned a study to examine possible highway and transit improvements that would relieve traffic around the state. One solution the study highlighted was a BRT system, which would create a road exclusively for the bus line. Over the next 15 years, state officials looked for ways to fund the project, and in 2012 construction officially began.
Now, nearly two decades later, the system is up and running and can transport residents to and from Hartford and New Britain, with stops along the way. In contrast to regular buses, the CTfastrak offers a no-transfer and higher-speed ride by operating on a dedicated busway that bypasses traffic congestion for the roughly 10-mile commute between Hartford and New Britain.
“We’re happy to help bring new transit options to central Connecticut’s growing population and the thousands of new bus riders who are expected to use the new service to connect to jobs, education, businesses and other destinations in New Britain, Newington and Hartford,” Federal Transit Acting Administrator Therese McMillan said at the opening ceremony on Saturday.
Funding for the project came largely from the federal government, Malloy’s spokesman Devon Puglia said. In November 2011, Malloy and the FTA approved a $275 million grant for the construction of CTfastrak — nearly 50 percent of its total cost of $567 million. In total, the federal government contributed 80 percent of the project’s total costs while the state put in the remaining 20 percent, said commissioner for the Connecticut Department of Transportation Jim Redeker.
At the opening ceremony, local city officials recognized both the federal and state governments’ efforts in building CTfastrak. New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart and Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra both praised the perseverance of those involved in the project and highlighted the innovation of the BRT system.
“The opening is a great start toward creating a 21st-century transportation system,” Malloy said at the opening ceremony.
Although the new bus line runs only from Hartford to New Britain with 11 stops along the way, Redeker said the state hopes to create additional routes that go through other areas, including New Haven.
The BRT system, first implemented in Brazil, is currently present in 20 other states in the U.S., and has several features to reduce travel time. In addition to dedicated lanes, BRTs usually have platforms designed for fast boarding and exiting, as well as off-board fare collection to cut the delay associated with collecting ticket fees on the bus.
“I’m excited that the nation is talking about the most progressive bus system in the country and that it’s in Connecticut, a place which has been historically known for not having great bus service,” Director of Transportation for New Haven Doug Hausladen ’04 said.
He added that he, alongside other New Haven officials, is looking forward to a potential BRT system in New Haven.
Redeker added that Malloy’s 30-year transportation plan envisions BRT systems in all major cities and urbanized areas around the state.