MERIDEN — The state Department of Transportation has opened an express bus line from the Waterbury Green to the Meriden train station, creating the first direct link between the two cities in decades.
“I am delighted — really happy — that there is now a direct bus service between the two cities,” Meriden Transit District Administrator Allan Church said in an email Monday. ”During the time I've been working for Meriden Transit, which is now almost 8 and a half years, I have been asked ‘How can I get to Waterbury?’ more than any other question.”
Bus route 940 serving Meriden and Waterbury will operate fare-free until Feb. 28. The new route operates on weekdays only, providing 30 to 40 minute travel times between the two cities. From Waterbury, the bus originates at the Waterbury Green before stopping at the Waterbury Train Station and Meriden Train Station.
From Meriden, the route originates at the Meriden Train Station with a stop at the Waterbury Green. The route uses coach-style buses, which include free wi-fi and mobile device charging ports for passengers, according to the DOT.
“We are pleased to announce this new express bus service between Meriden and Waterbury,” said DOT Bureau Chief for Public Transportation Rich Andreski. “The new route will better connect residents of both cities and provides better access to the Waterbury Line, the Hartford Line, and many destinations throughout the state.”
The route operates from approximately 5 a.m. until 10 p.m. with half-hourly service during peak hours and hourly service in the midday and evening hours. Service has been designed to arrive at the Meriden Train Station 10 minutes prior to Hartford Line trains. The bus will also wait for 10 minutes for connecting train passengers to board the bus. This was done to ensure easy connections to and from Hartford Line trains.
Prior to Bus 940, a bus trip from Meriden to Waterbury could be daunting and take hours.
There are three possible scenarios, Church said. A person could take the Local 215 bus from Meriden to New Haven, switch to the Local 229 and take the trip to Waterbury, via Routes 10 and 70. One could take the local 501 to New Britain and transfer to the Express Route 928, Hartford-Southington-Waterbury.
It was also possible to take a train from Meriden to Hartford to catch the Express Route 928. However the 928 express has been suspended since Sept. 4, as have express routes to Old Saybrook and Bristol. The suspension is due to disagreements with the operators, according to the DOT.
A final way to get to
Waterbury was to wait until one of the local buses in Meriden was set to end shift and ride back with it as an unscheduled, but still paying, local trip to the Waterbury Green, Church said.
“All of these trips took significantly longer than the new Route 940, which, the schedule indicates, should run between 30 and 40 minutes,” Church stated. “ The new service is just great, as far as I am concerned.”
The 940 express service is convenient for commuters on the Hartford Train line who want to get to Waterbury and for those on the Waterbury-Bridgeport line, although Church expects it will be as much a boon to everyday passengers commuting from Meriden or Waterbury or vice versa.
“Helpfully, the service continues until quite late in the evening,” Church said.
The only reservation Church has is the ticket price. After Feb. 28, the state is charging the commuter express prices, rather than the local bus ticket price. DOT has set a "Stage Two" price, which means a one-way ticket will cost about twice as much as a regular one-way local bus ticket ($3.20 vs. $1.85). Other fares are comparable.
“But still, it's a pretty good deal,” he said.
Meriden Economic Development Director Joseph Feest also praised the new bus line.
“Anytime you can make transportation easier for people who don’t have a car or just don’t want to drive I think is a good idea,” Feest said. “We had talked about wanting to become more of a transportation hub at our train station and this is definitely a plus in this category. Connecting our two cities should help commerce back and forth between us. Workers who live in either city now have reliable transportation to take.”
Rosanne Ford, president of the Midstate Chamber of Commerce, echoed Feest and added that transportation has been a chamber legislative priority. The free fares will entice riders to use the new service whether to commute to work, visit family and friends, shop in the area, or continue a journey on the Hartford Line, she said.
”Expansion to weekend service would be ideal, based on ridership numbers of course,” Ford said.
“That is especially critical for those using the service to get to and from their jobs that may include weekend schedules.”
Lynn Ward, president and CEO of the Waterbury Regional Chamber of Commerce, said the express service will have a regional effect in the Northeast. The area from Waterbury to Springfield is a region of more than a million, highly educated workers and many top employers, an area ripe for continued growth. The express service is also a selling point for employers hiring new workers.
“Giving individuals more efficient options for commuting can only be a benefit to the region, especially as the state and federal governments place a greater emphasis on making infrastructure improvements, which will be causing delays on the highways in the future, especially around Waterbury with the ‘mixmaster’ upgrades,” Ward said.