MERIDEN — In its first year of service, an estimated 634,000 passengers rode the Hartford Line from New Haven to Springfield, according to a report released by the state Department of Transportation.
The tally is about 51,000 more than originally projected for the first year.
The $764 million Hartford Line is the first rail line to open for service in the state since 1990. New stations were built in Wallingford, Meriden and Berlin and 16 cars were leased from Massachusetts, allowing 17 daily trips to Hartford, and 12 to Springfield.
“We need to dramatically improve our transportation system to compete in a 21st century economy,” Gov. Ned Lamont said in prepared remarks. “The Hartford LIne is one component of creating a fast, efficient transportation system that works. It’s only been one year and ridership has been higher than expected...”
The line has spurred $430 million in new development along the rail corridor in recent years, according to the study.
In Meriden, the city’s transit-oriented district is transforming the half-mile area around the new train station with a 14-acre park and $150 million public and private investment in 295 apartments and 31,000 feet of commercial space.
Wallingford’s transit-oriented district plan calls for shifting industrial developments to the north, freeing up space for mixed-use and retail development downtown. The Parker Place apartment complex, located near the station, added 200 units. Berlin is also moving ahead on several redevelopment opportunities near the station.
Hartford Line has two service providers, TASI/ACI and Amtrak. Fiscal year 2019 saw $43.9 million in expenses, with revenues of $7.2 million, and $36.7 million in state and federal subsidies, according to the report.
The busiest Hartford Line train stations were New Haven Union, Hartford and Springfield. Passengers are primarily buying one-way tickets, 70.7 percent, with 13.9 percent buying a U-Pass CT ticket, and 13.7 percent buying a monthly pass, according to the report.
Nearly one-half of riders use the Hartford Line for social/recreational use. Business related riders accounted for nearly four out of 10 trips, 25.4 percent commute to and from work and 14.3 percent for “business,” the report said.
“From the moment I first wrote about the Hartford Line I could tell it was going to be a success,” said Commuter Action Group President James Cameron in an e-mail.
The economic impact has been obvious, he said.
“Plus the time savings for people who take the train but were previously stuck on 91,” he added.
Customer satisfaction was above 90 percent in many categories, the report said. Some amenities that passengers would like to see in the future include power outlets and real-time arrival information on mobile devices.
Sean Moore, president of the Midstate Chamber of Commerce, sat on the Regional Transportation Strategy Board. “Kukos to ConnDot and Amtrak for this first level of success,” Moore said. “We always billed this rail as a catalyst for development, which is kind of a risk.”
But the number of residential units built along the line proved the risk was worth it, he said.
“Now I expect more business development in the next few years,” he said.
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