The central Connecticut area will soon be home to a
new form of transportation that looks to revolutionize the way Connecticut residents commute. Projected to be finished in early 2015, Connecticut Fastrak will administer a swift ride for those who choose to utilize public transportation to get to their destination of choice. Stretching all the way from Waterbury to Hartford, this contemporary system will make travel in the area more convenient for all, and likely boost local economies with more folks having an opportunity to explore areas of the state they might not have had the chance to previously. CT Fastrak is a form of Transit Oriented Development (TOD), which is described by the CT DOT as, “A strategy to increase economic competitiveness through improved quality of life, reduced traffic congestion, lower transportation costs for households, improved air quality, reduced costs for providing city services, and growth management.”
On July 17th, CT Greenscene was invited to see what progress had been made on the Fastrak. Led by CT DOT’s Mike Sanders, we began in downtown Hartford, passing by many of the stations (Flatbush Ave., Sigourney St.) that are under construction. As you can see from the following photos, they are very modern looking and would appear to be quite comfortable. Having the opportunity to get out and walk around at a few of the stations was incredible. Simply seeing the signs with the map of stops, where the ticketing kiosks would be, and even the benches, helped me envision what the what this project is aiming to look like.
They also added a few sustainability practices at the stations themselves including a stormwater runoff system at the Cedar St. station in Newington, and a roof over a New Britain station that hopes to have 100 solar panels resting on it. As you might have guessed, the buses are also quite energy efficient. The diesel-electric hybrid busses are approximately 90% cleaner than the 12 year-old busses they replace. This is what I like to see. It’s not enough to rely on a single sustainability approach for a large initiative like this. What CT Fastrak has done is take each aspect of the track, and add as many of these techniques as possible. This sets a perfect example for other initiatives that are looking to implement environmentally friendly practices. Go all out!
An additional benefit of the CT Fastrak would be the reduction in congestion on I-84. Anyone who has ever commuted into Hartford during rush hour knows about the nightmarish traffic that occurs each and every morning and afternoon. DOT officials made it clear that of course, the traffic won’t be totally eliminated, but congestion will likely be reduced if their 3,000 rider per day prediction stands. The most notable solution to the traffic problem is the 9.4 mile exclusive guideway where only Fastrack buses and those using the bike path will be allowed to enter, making it a traffic free, speedy experience. The exclusive guideway runs from New Britain to Newington, helping to ensure travelers will arrive at their destination on time. Also, with busses arriving at stations every 10 minutes, guaranteed frequency and reliability seem to be a top priority of the DOT.
The central Connecticut towns that the Fastrak passes through will not only be getting beautiful new bus stations, but hopefully a boost of the local economy as well. Riders will have a different experience riding the Fastrak as opposed to other forms of transportation and there’s more opportunity for them to explore towns along the way.
Only time will tell if the decision to funnel taxpayer dollars into this project will pay off. If it works, and the DOT gets the ridership they’re expecting, CT Fastrak could transform the way in which we travel in our state, offering possibilities for other parts of Connecticut to connect to these routes. At this time next year, we will likely be talking about how this was a great success, or epic failure. I hope to be writing about the former in 2015.
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