Southington/Cheshire to Hartford bus commute a viable option

Southington/Cheshire to Hartford bus commute a viable option

Record-Journal


HARTFORD — A ride on CTfastrak from Cheshire to Hartford this past week showed it’s a viable commute for those working near bus stations and with no need for a car at work.

An express route which predates CTfastrak runs from Waterbury through Cheshire, Southington, Plainville, New Britain and Newington to Hartford. That bus now runs more often and uses a bus-only road between New Britain and Hartford to avoid traffic.

I boarded the 7:55 a.m. express bus for Hartford at the commuter lot on Route 10 in Cheshire, planning to get into the city in time for a hypothetical 9-to-5 job. One other rider joined me there but the bus picked up a half-dozen more commuters at the park-and-ride in Plantsville near Sliders Grill & Bar.

The bus arrived at the downtown stop about 45 minutes after I’d boarded in Cheshire, just as advertised despite some delays on Route 72.

Patty Termay, a Southington resident and Traveler’s Insurance employee, got on at the Plantsville commuter lot at 8 a.m. She’s been taking the express bus to work since September. In addition to saving gas and car wear, she said it’s a much less stressful ride.

Before CTfastrak opened, the latest morning bus to Hartford picked up in Southington at 7:35 a.m. Termay said. If she was running late, she’d have to drive.

The new bus service, which began March 28, brought new routes and times every half hour until 8 a.m., and then every hour after until the afternoon commute. There’s also hourly service until 11 p.m. for a late return home as well.

“For commuters it’s much better,” Termay said.

With CTfastrak, the bus now stops at a few more stations such as New Britain while before it only let out in Hartford according to Termay. On Wednesday, riders boarded in Cheshire and Southington and no one got on or off until the downtown Hartford stop.

The bus driver said the previous run had more than 30 people commuting into the city.

The express bus route drives from Waterbury to the commuter lots in Cheshire and Plantsville. From there it takes Route 72 and Interstate 84 to the New Britain CTfastrak station and the busway built between that city and Hartford.

Traffic can slow the bus’s progress on public roads but once on the busway, closed to all other traffic, commuters make good time. The express bus leaves the busway at Sigourney Street Station in Hartford and takes local roads to the other destinations such as downtown, Farmington Avenue and The Bushnell.

The busway, a contested, $570 million road stretching 9.4 miles between New Britain and Hartford, parallels the rail lines and offers a different perspective on both urban areas compared to the view from the highway.

Much of the route is lined with industrial buildings some of which are abandoned or decaying.

It’s an interesting behind-the-facade glimpse of what was once an industrial powerhouse in the region.

All that is contrasted with the clean, new stations dotting the route and the busway itself.

Graffiti artists have yet to work on most of the clear concrete surfaces and the metal shelters are shining.

Commuters from this area don’t get to ride one of the new bright green buses but Ron Dresner, a spokesman for CTfastrak said the blue express buses are only about six months old. Some still have the “new bus smell,” he said.

On Wednesday, and until April 5, CTfastrak buses are free. After that, riders from the Cheshire lot will pay $3.50 to Hartford while those from the Plantsville lot will pay $4.30.

Those fares are one-way but commuters can cut their daily fare costs in half by buying a month pass.

It’s about 20 miles from the Slider’s lot to Gold Street in Hartford. In my aging Honda, that means I can make the trip on less than a gallon of gas.

Those with fuel-efficient cars, or just cars made after the fall of the Soviet Union, might do even better in a cost comparison.

However, the distance and fuel calculations don’t include fuel wasted in traffic delays or the wear and tear on a car from a daily commute.

With a bus pass cutting the fare costs in half, the best financial decision might be to take the bus.

John Barry, a Southington town councilor who works at the state Capitol, rode into Hartford Wednesday morning as he occasionally does. He considers the fare a good deal considering the cost of gas and car wear and tear.

For the return trip I’d planned to leave from Union Station at 10:19 a.m. after breakfast in Hartford.

It pays to read the bus schedule thoroughly — while the stop is called Union Station the bus actually picks up at Asylum and High streets a block away.

I realized my oversight when I watched the 10:19 express bus zoom pass the station. Fortunately, buses for Southington arrive hourly.

The return bus left Hartford at 11:19 a.m. and was empty except for one other rider who got on in New Britain.

That’s normal for hours before the afternoon commute, according to the bus driver, who said he’s gotten used to a lonely drive.

Cars are the default transportation for most Americans but Wednesday’s bus ride reminded me that there are alternatives and they’re not unpleasant.

jbuchanan@record-journal.com (203) 317-2230 Twitter: @JBuchananRJ




X