City officials and community members gathered Tuesday evening to kick off a new transit study, with many attendees hoping the findings will bring federally funded transportation projects to the Elm City.
Funded primarily by the Federal Transit Administration, the $950,000 Alternatives Analysis study will document the status of New Haven’s current public transportation system. The study will also consider the feasibility of realigning bus routes, improving bus-train connections and creating a centralized transit center.
“This study will help generate data about how the existing transportation system can be updated to allow new commuter patterns, new leisure time references and a new generation of urban dwellers,” Mayor Toni Harp said.
The study’s community advisory committee convened for the first time yesterday at a City Hall meeting led by Director of Transportation and Head of the New Haven Parking Authority Doug Hausladen ’04.
Hausladen said New Haven’s drastic uptick in population density over the past decade and the migration of jobs to the center of the city necessitate an increased focus on public transport provisions. He said it is especially important that New Haven residents have robust public transport systems to get them to work and back.
Though New Haven has a dense network of bus routes and three commuter rail lines, it is difficult to switch from one mode of public transport to another, Hausladen said.
“We haven’t had our bus terminal, or places where buses interact, near train lines,” Hausladen said.
The committee, which will convene roughly once a month, consists of one representative from each of New Haven’s 12 community management teams. These teams serve as forums to solve problems in New Haven’s community policing districts.
Present at the kick-off were several alders, including Salvatore DeCola of Ward 18 and Adam Marchand of Ward 25, as well as Randall Davis, who represented the state Department of Transportation.
“The department is very happy that the project is getting underway,” Davis said. “The entire project is structured by involving community citizens like you.”
In a presentation to committee members, Hausladen said that although buses are easily accessible across the city, the level of service available to users is inconsistent.
Hausladen said large-scale changes to New Haven’s entire public transport system would require “big dollars,” hopefully from the federal government after the study’s findings are released.
The committee nominated two of its own members — Kurtis Kearney of Fair Haven Heights and Kevin McCarthy of East Rock — to represent the New Haven community at the study’s review committee. This review committee, which will secure a consultant for the study by Nov. 20, hopes to finalize the scope of the study after discussion with a consultant.
The study is expected to be completed within 18 to 24 months, said Lori Richards of the Greater New Haven Transit District, the official recipient of the FTA grant financing the study.
Hausladen encouraged community committee members to investigate other public transit transformations that have been successful in metropolitan areas like Houston. Recently, city officials in Houston doubled the number of people served in their high frequency transportation network to 1.1 million with no increase in operating costs, Hausladen said.
The Board of Alders initially denied a grant for this study in 2011, but the decision was reversed in August 2014.