After 10 years, two failed Board of Aldermen votes and a false start last year, a $1 million study to improve commuting throughout New Haven was officially launched this past October.
The 16-month-long study, titled Move New Haven, is an effort to improve transit throughout New Haven by soliciting feedback from the city’s residents and using those findings to implement the suggested changes. The project has been in the works since 2007.
Funding for the study will come from three different public sectors. The city of New Haven is contributing $90,000, while the Connecticut government is providing $100,000. The remaining three-quarters of the funds come from the federal government’s Alternative Analysis program, a project initiated by the Federal Transit Administration in 2011 that finances transportation evaluation studies.
“The goals of this study are to figure out and develop alternatives and actions for the greater New Haven region [to enable] our transit system to better connect people with their jobs and communities,” said Doug Hausladen ’04, director of transportation, traffic and parking in New Haven.
He added that as far back as 2014, much public interest centered on the improvement of bus transit.
In fact, in 2014 Mayor Toni Harp declared the improvement of bus transit a “civil rights issue,” citing the significant impact the city’s bus system can have on residents’ ability to reach their jobs. Hausladen emphasized the study’s special focus on bus routes and noted that the city is looking to increase bus ridership by 25 percent in the next five years.
Matthew Nemerson SOM ’81, New Haven’s economic development administrator, also highlighted the importance of carefully analyzing bus system operations, noting that the study will identify where bus riders embark or disembark, which bus lines would benefit from greater capacity and which bus routes should be changed. In addition, the study will determine whether additional transfer points are needed at certain places around the city to facilitate bus transfers, Nemerson said.
“[We want] to check whether the very ancient bus route layout, which really goes back to the trolley days of the late 1890s and the early 19th century, whether that system should be emulated by the buses 100 years later,” Nemerson said.
Enhancing accessibility through downtown New Haven is an especially important concern, and the city is hoping to ease bus transportation in that area through transit signal prioritization, Hausladen explained. Sometimes informally referred to as “bus jumping cues,” signal prioritization reduces waiting time for transit vehicles at junctions governed by traffic signals, typically by giving such vehicles first priority.
In light of the expansion of the Hartford and Shore Line East train lines, as well as the new train stations on the Metro-North Railroad, the study will also look to determine how these new developments might affect travel choices and how the city should respond to those changes, according to Nemerson. He noted that the end goal is to ensure that the fixed rail service supports and complements New Haven’s bus service.
The study itself will be divided into two distinct phases. The first is the ongoing collection of feedback and data from customers and stakeholders. Surveys are available online at Move New Haven’s website or in paper at every New Haven library branch, Hausladen said.
In an effort to raise awareness of the study, the city has put ads in buses directing people to the online survey, published ads on social media and contacted local newspapers.
Additionally, according to Lisa DiTaranti, the Connecticut Department of Transportation representative on the project, community engagement committees composed of one member from every Community Management Team district will convene nine times over the duration of the study. Beyond that, a public event was held on the New Haven Green last Wednesday, at which city residents had an opportunity to ask questions and fill out surveys at a booth. A survey was conducted the same day at all nearby bus stops.
Correction, Nov. 2: An earlier version of this article misquoted Mayor Toni Harp. She called bus transit improvement a “civil rights issue,” not a “human rights issue.”