CONNECTICUT DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
BUS RAPID TRANSIT DEMONSTRATION PROJECT
NEW BRITAIN – HARTFORD BUSWAY
1. Project Description
In 1997, the Connecticut Department of Transportation (ConnDOT), Capitol Region Council of Governments (CRCOG) and Central Connecticut Regional Planning Agency (CCRPA) undertook a Major Investment Study (MIS) for the Hartford West corridor. This corridor has been broadly defined to include Interstate 84 and the neighborhoods surrounding the highway right-of-way, the parallel arterial roadways, and two rail lines, the Bristol-Hartford line and the New Haven-Hartford line. The study area encompasses portions of five communities: Hartford, West Hartford, Farmington, Newington and New Britain.
After the preparation of three technical reports and a comprehensive public involvement program, the principal transportation improvement recommendation to result from this study process is an exclusive 9.6 mile long busway. The New Britain – Hartford Busway supports the Federal Transit Administration’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Initiative. The Bus Rapid Transit Initiative’s goal is to improve the speed, reliability and convenience of bus service, along with improving mobility and promoting a healthy environment.
The preferred alignment of the Busway will link Downtown New Britain with Union Station in Downtown Hartford. Although the Busway facility terminates in the two downtowns, the BRT service can extend beyond the termination points and offer a one-seat ride by providing loops through the downtowns.
The Busway, the first in the State of Connecticut, will run along active and inactive railroad rights-of-way through four (4) cities/towns: New Britain, Newington, West Hartford and Hartford. The northern portion of the busway from Hartford to Newington Junction is an active railroad right-of-way and is currently owned by Amtrak. The southern portion from Newington Junction to downtown New Britain is an abandoned railroad right-of-way owned by the State of Connecticut.
The Busway would provide four types of service to accommodate commuters:
Express Bus Service The first of the busway services are the long distance commuter express routes which currently originate in Bristol, Plainville, Cheshire and Southington, as well as potential new services from other locations such as Waterbury. The coach-style commuter buses will travel from outlying communities, enter the busway in downtown New Britain and express into Hartford with limited or no stops. This would allow the long distance commuter to avoid the congestion on I-84, thus reducing the projected commute into Hartford by 10 minutes. Once in Hartford, the express bus would exit the busway and circulate through the city to provide convenient drop-off points for passengers.
Shuttle Bus Service The shuttle service would run similar to a subway. It would operate from end to end on the busway, stop at all busway stations and potentially circulate through the two downtowns. This service is expected to operate on a regular and frequent schedule, so passengers would not need to reference bus schedules for the next bus arrival. This will offer faster and more direct service in both directions, providing better access to jobs and other destinations.
Neighborhood Collectors This service would circulate on local streets within a community. The buses would then access the busway at certain intermediate locations and use the busway to travel to their destinations, whether it’s downtown Hartford, downtown New Britain or an intermediate location. After exiting the busway, the collector buses would circulate again within the community, providing the customer a "one-seat ride".
Feeder Bus Service This service would connect residential areas, points of interest, or other locations in the surrounding area with the nearest busway station. This service would drop-off passengers at the stations and passengers would then take the shuttle service to Hartford, New Britain or to other locations along the busway.
At this time it is contemplated that the primary busway service would operate 18 hours per day, from approximately 6:00 am until midnight. Consideration will be given to having the busway operate to parallel the Hartford system’s service day of 4:30 am to 2:00 am, although most routes using the busway would operate for shorter spans. Frequent peak period service would be provided during a two-hour AM peak (7:00 AM – 9:00AM) and two-hour PM peak (4:30 PM – 6:30 PM) with service headways averaging every two to five minutes, ranging between 12 and 28 buses per hour. During the off-peak hours, service will be less frequent to meet the lower demand, ranging between 9 and 19 buses per hour
The busway was selected as the preferred alternative for this corridor because it offers travelers the greatest speed, flexibility and ease of interface as compared with other modal alternatives. Busway travel speed is enhanced by the exclusive use of the facility. Therefore, bus travel times will be more competitive with or even faster than automobile travel times. At any given point on the busway, speeds will be dictated by the surrounding area’s land use and the design limitations of the facility itself. In areas that are more densely populated, have curves, or contain at-grade crossings, speeds would be limited to 35 mph. This 35-mph limit will also be observed through stations for express buses that are passing through. Along selected straight segments of the corridor containing no crossings or nearby residences, speeds would be as high as 50 mph. Bus drivers will require special training before using the busway.
The primary busway service will be operated with a mix of standard urban transit or coach buses and possibly 60-foot articulated buses. One of the benefits the busway has is that the existing fleet of buses would be available for immediate use. However, some new buses will likely be purchased for opening day and as ridership increases and older buses come due for replacement, additional new buses will be needed. ConnDOT anticipates increasing the current fleet to possibly include ten (10) articulated buses for shuttle service between New Britain and Hartford, ten (10) 40-foot commuter buses for expanded express bus service and ten (10) 30-foot low floor buses for neighborhood circulation.
New Technology buses will reduce or eliminate on-road emissions from busway vehicles. Possible new technology buses under considerations include "clean" diesel, electric buses, and hybrid electric-diesel buses or other new fuels that may develop. ConnDOT has committed to examine alternative fuel types and to purchase buses that use proven technology, are not cost prohibitive and are practical. ConnDOT has will be purchasing two hybrid electric buses as a demonstration project for testing in anticipation of the bus purchase for the busway services. ConnDOT is also testing ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel and bio-diesel fuel for emission reductions.
There are several options being considered for fare collection. One option is to collect fares traditionally, i.e., while boarding. Second would be the honor system with proof of fare payment required. The third option is to use platform controls requiring passengers to pay first before accessing the platform. Under all these options, the current fare media – daily, 7-day, 31-day and 10-trip tickets would all be honored. More detailed discussions will occur concerning boarding and platform control in technical work groups for service design and station design.
ITS will be employed throughout the busway facility to provide passengers with maximum levels of safety, efficiency, comfort and information. Sensors will be able to track bus locations to ensure that buses approaching intersections receive priority at busway traffic signals, while minimizing the impact on cross-street traffic. Variable message signs at each station will provide passengers with up-to-date information on bus arrival and departure. ITS systems will be used to provide safety enhancements at the busway stations. On-board ITS will also be used for next stop announcements, and other passenger comfort or information enhancements.
Up to twelve stations would be provided in four communities along the busway. The stations are critical elements in the acceptance and the success of the BRT facility. Stations are proposed to offer a high degree of amenity and traveler convenience, and will vary from small stations with platforms and shelters to stations with larger permanent structures. All stations would have, at a minimum, two covered platforms for loading and unloading passengers, station signage/gateways for visibility, lighting and landscaping. Most stations, with the exception of three in or near downtown Hartford, would provide a drop-off area ("Kiss-and-Ride") for cars to unload passengers. Platform configurations will vary from "offset" platform configuration, to conserve right of way, to an opposite platform configuration where right of way will allow. To maintain a transit- friendly design the BRT facility would include connectivity for pedestrians, transit riders and bicyclists. Joint development with office, residential, retail or other commercial uses at stations will be investigated to further strengthen system ridership.
Bus routes will be able to enter and exit the busway at some intermediate locations. Connecting bus routes will link passengers with off-line destinations at station locations. Park-and-ride lots would offer further flexibility in meeting passenger needs. Bus terminal access in New Britain could include a direct connection to the limited-access Route 72 freeway. In Downtown Hartford, buses could leave the busway and circulate through the central business district.
2. Problems Addressed by the Project
Both bus users and automobile commuters would benefit from the busway, as would residents and businesses in the entire corridor. By offering an attractive transit alternative, the busway can reduce travel demand on the congested I-84 roadway, thereby expanding the physical capacity of the multi-modal corridor and enhancing accessibility to the downtown Hartford central business district.
New bus routes designed to take advantage of the busway will also be able to offer residents of the region greater access to suburban employment centers in the towns of West Hartford, Newington, New Britain and Plainville. The flexibility of busway operation would allow the transit system to more effectively respond to changing ridership demand and future development within the corridor.
3. Implementation and Operations Schedule
The following is a preliminary timetable for design and implementation of the project using a design/build process.
Begin Preliminary Design
Complete Preliminary Design
Begin Final Design
Complete Design Final
During the Connecticut Legislative session for State Fiscal Year 2001 a bill was introduced for the New Britain – Hartford Busway permitting the use of Total Cost Contracting (Design-Build). The bill passed in early June 2001.
4. Funding Plan
ConnDOT has committed to fully fund the state match necessary for the construction and equipment purchase of the New Britain - Hartford Busway. ConnDOT will pursue federal New Starts and other transportation funds appropriate for this effort within the defined time frame. Total project costs are projected to be $145.0 million. This includes all design, property acquisition and construction activities as well as vehicle acquisition and modifying the current maintenance facility to accommodate the articulated buses.
The Final EIS reflects the project cost in both 2001 and 2004 dollars. With a higher contingency percentage, requested by FTA, and escalation costs to the mid-point of construction the project cost in 2004 dollars is estimated to be $160.0 million.
5. Issues of Concern re: planning, design, implementation and/or operations
During the MIS Study, a number of issues were raised that will require further study during subsequent phases. Operating costs and subsidies are of major concern. The State of Connecticut currently pays a subsidy of about $7.7 million dollars a year on the existing transit services in the Hartford West corridor. This equates to roughly $1.33 per person per trip. The busway will require an additional $5.7 million dollars per year to support the new service. Other areas of concern include:
ConnDOT held neighborhood meetings, which began the public involvement process. During these meetings the public was informed of how the project evolved and how the determination was made to build a busway. Also, during the neighborhood meetings the public was asked for their input on the stations, such as the location of the station, the name of the station and what amenities the public is interested in having at the stations. In May 2000 ConnDOT proceeded to the next level of public involvement holding public information meetings, one in each of the four towns that will host the busway. ConnDOT has continued to hold Advisory Committee meetings with representatives from the cities and towns, state and federal agencies, CTTRANSIT, and other potential transit operators.
The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) approved ConnDOT to enter into Preliminary Engineering (PE) with a "Recommended New Start" project rating. The Final MIS was prepared and distributed in 1999. The Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was issued in March 2001. Record of Decision (ROD) expected by March 2002.
Mrs. Maureen Lawrence
Connecticut Department of Transportation
2800 Berlin Turnpike
P.O. Box 317546
Newington, CT. 06131-7546