Group Says Small Investment Would Start Wheels Rolling
March 20, 2007
By GARY LIBOW, Courant Staff Writer
Mass transit advocates on Monday unveiled a $309 million plan aimed at comprehensively enhancing commuter bus service statewide over five years.
Transit for Connecticut, a coalition of 20-plus business, social service, environmental and transportation organizations, said at a state Capitol news conference that a fairly modest state investment could boost bus ridership by 80 percent.
In 2006, more than 35 million riders used state-subsidized bus service, up 5 percent from the previous year.
State Sen. Donald J. DeFronzo, D-New Britain, co-chairman of the General Assembly's transportation committee, said the proposal would reduce highway congestion and pollution and improve state economic development.
Transit for Connecticut recommends expanding express bus services to major employment centers, and increasing operating hours and frequency of service on heavily used and overcrowded routes.
The New Haven-based advocacy group also recommends increased weekend and evening bus service, expanded dial-a-ride options, more commuter connections with rail stations, and increased interregional service to improve access to jobs.
The strategy, according to the group, would add 1.8 million hours of bus service annually after a five-year, phased implementation.
Joe McGee, representing the Business Council of Fairfield County, said the proposed bus enhancements are long overdue. Improved bus service would help businesses attract and hold productive employees, he said.
"Improved bus service linked to investments in rail will enhance the economic outlook for Connecticut by reducing congestion on our highways and encouraging employers to grow jobs in Connecticut," McGee said.
Louis Schulman of the Norwalk Transit District said a five-year phased plan is proposed to make initiatives more affordable. The proposal seeks $12.7 million a year for operating expenses, and $49 million annually for capital expenses, including equipment and facility purchases.
"This program builds on the strong foundation of existing service," Schulman said.
Curt Johnson of Connecticut Fund for the Environment said investing in clean diesel bus systems could reduce dangerous emissions 80 to 90 percent by 2010.
"If we do nothing, we will be losing ground," DeFronzo said. "We really ought to be moving forward."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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