Unlike many cities and towns of its size, Southington has virtually no public bus service to speak of. Even more curious, however, is that no one really knows why.
Town residents have only one CT Transit option, the Cheshire/Southington Express bus to Hartford. It runs weekdays with stops at commuter lots in Cheshire and Southington. The state Department of Transportation plans to expand the service to weekends in conjunction with the opening of the new busway between New Britain and Hartford. That’s at least some good news. It only costs $3.05 one way to avoid the hassle and expense of driving into and parking in Hartford. But it’s a direct service route with no other stops in Southington, so that bus isn’t going to help you get from one end of town to the other, or to the Meriden shopping mall, or to Plainville or New Britain or Bristol, for example.
Cheshire residents, on the other hand, have greater access to daily bus service. You can take a bus from Cheshire Town Hall to Union Station in New Haven any day of the week with eight other stops along the way at places like Kohl’s department store, Hamden plaza and the New Haven Green. Or you can head in the other direction into downtown Waterbury. Another bus runs weekdays between the Cheshire industrial park and the Waterbury Green.
Wallingford has weekday service with 17 stops in town. A senior citizen living at the Masonic Home, for example, can take a 10-minute bus ride to Stop & Shop on Route 5.
Meriden, of course, has extensive bus service throughout the city.
Public bus service in Southington would cut down on congestion along busy corridors like Route 10, West Street and Meriden-Waterbury Turnpike, benefiting the town as a whole. And it’s not just me saying that. The Central Connecticut Regional Planning Agency has recommended that Southington adopt bus service for that very reason.
Intra-town service with connections to a few surrounding communities would increase the quality of life for Southington residents who don’t own cars, and the aging population who can no longer drive. It would encourage smarter development and help residents cope with unprecedented economic challenges.
But, as a DOT official told Record-Journal reporter Jesse Buchanan recently, the state will only support an expansion of service into Southington if there’s political and financial backing from the town.
In response to questions from the same reporter, several town councilors said they had no idea why there were no buses in Southington and that they’d be willing to explore the issue. But they also said they had either never been approached by a resident requesting buses or had only heard from a few people over the years. Councilors were cautious and said they’d have to see ridership studies. It wasn’t clear if they were really going to pursue the issue, so if you support public transportation you might want to talk to your town councilors.
Fortunately, Town Manager Garry Brumback was more definitive. When he was asked about it, Brumback said it was time to revisit whatever decision was made “years and years and years ago” to opt out of bus service.