SOUTHINGTON — State officials will study and plan a local bus route following a unanimous vote by the Town Council.
Council leaders still have questions about details, such as where bus stops will be located, but on Monday night supported the state Department of Transportation studying the issue.
DOT officials said an underused Bristol bus route will be rerouted through north Southington and suggested a stop on Queen Street at the Bob’s Furniture Plaza. Southington bus service was recommended by the Capitol Region Council of Governments, a planning group that conducted a transportation study in 2016.
Council members, state officials and local bus advocates had a lengthy discussion about the project during a Town Council meeting last month.
Nancy Chiero, a retired special education teacher, is a founder of Southington Supports Public Transportation.
“You can’t get out of our town” without a car, she said. “I think it’s really unfair to those people who are disabled or who don’t drive to trap them in our town.”
Councilor Michael Riccio said his vote in support of the study only allows the DOT to present the council with a plan.
“It’ll give us something to look at,” he said.
Riccio, a Republican, said he isn’t in favor of expanding the “failing” bus system. He prefers a private-sector solution — such as transportation vouchers that could be used for ride services such as Uber or Lyft.
While buses may be effective in densely populated cities, Riccio feels they make “no financial sense” in the suburbs. He said Town Council Democrats supporting the new bus line were “grandstanding.”
“These guys aren’t about providing better service. They’re about looking good on camera,” Riccio said.
Town Council chairman Chris Palmieri, a Democrat, said he’d gotten more information from DOT since last month and had confirmation that Bristol officials supported shifting the bus route.
“I think this is really going to benefit a lot of our residents in need who don’t have their own transportation,” Palmieri said. “It was important to me because so many residents have reached out to me, especially through the commission on disabilities.”
He said the bus line and accompanying paratransit service would be more affordable to needy residents than private options. Palmieri also wanted more information on microtransit, which are flexible minibus routes that would have wider reach than paratransit.
Victoria Triano, a Republican councilor, agreed there was a need in town although she would have liked to see more exploration of locally-run public transportation options.
“I get concerned when the state gets involved in anything because then we lose direct control,” she said.
John Barry, a Democratic councilor, said the town will still work with DOT on any plans for a bus route and stops.
“I think there was some fear once we vote that then we’re out of the loop,” he said. “Based on information that was provided (Monday), that was not the case.”