The image of the 924 bus — the Southington-Cheshire Express — taking on passengers along Main Street in downtown Hartford stuck with me after riding CTfastrak for the first time last week. As evening descended on an average Thursday, the 924 was one of several buses lined up before an increasingly crowded sidewalk in front of the Travelers — and not the bus I needed, I might add, having come from downtown New Britain. (Mine was right behind that one.) But the success of recent public transportation initiatives in penetrating even such solidly suburban enclaves is cause for optimism when it comes to solving development challenges in the region, not to mention revitalizing Hartford.
You can get the 924, 925 or 928 to Hartford from three different Park & Ride lots in Cheshire and Southington with 24 departures from each lot every weekday, 19 on Saturday and 14 on Sunday, according to the schedule that went into effect in September. These are the more traditional transit buses, not the green CTfastrak buses, but they now run more frequently along the same bus-only corridor.
A ticket from the Plantsville Park & Ride to Hartford is $3.50 one way, which is more than a CTfastrak fare, but not unreasonable (seniors pay just $1.75). And the hours couldn’t be more flexible. On your return to Southington or Cheshire, you can leave from five different points in downtown Hartford as late as 11 to 11:15 p.m. on weekdays and Saturdays. On Sundays, the last bus departs a little after 8 p.m.
And the beauty of all buses running along the corridor is that once they leave their dedicated lanes they continue along a compact local route, stopping at popular spots like Bushnell Park and the XL Center — an elegant, zero-transfer solution to the “last mile.”
The CTfastrak line itself between New Britain and Hartford promises more dramatic impact on development patterns along the bus-only corridor. I was impressed by the efficiency of the system as I rode from downtown New Britain to the Wadsworth Atheneum.
I took advantage of discounted parking at the Szczesny Municipal Garage, 255 Bank St., a block from the station. It was $3 to park and $3 for an all-day bus ticket, though the garage closes at 8 p.m. the attendant told me. A two-hour bus ticket is just $1.50, the same as a standard CTtransit fare. Free parking is available on a first-come, first-serve basis in lots at the two other New Britain stops — East Street Station and the Corbin Park & Ride — as well as stops in Newington and West Hartford.
But transportation officials clearly hope riders can break their dependence on a car altogether by reaching stations via CTtransit bus or greener alternatives like walking or biking. (The next phase of development along the corridor will be residential.)
After making use of the free wi-fi, I was delivered just steps from the Wadsworth about a half-hour later.
Can a system like CTfastrak really change commuting habits and promote smarter growth? Its popularity to date suggests so. Officials announced in August that ridership was exceeding estimates. At times during my ride there were as many as 20 people on board.
It makes sense. I’ve honestly never enjoyed a more stress-free trip to Hartford.
Reach Managing Editor/News Eric Cotton at (203) 317-2344 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @ecotton3.
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