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Speedier Buses

The Fast Lane If Manhattan can speed up service, so can Hartford

Hartford Courant

September 07, 2010

It isn't easy to speed up bus service on the crowded streets of Manhattan, but transit officials in the Big Apple are doing so. As Governing magazine recently reported, New York transit officials have introduced Select Bus Service, which uses a number of strategies, such as off-board fare collection, dedicated lanes and signal priority, to eliminate delays. Since the first Select line opened in 2008 in the Bronx, bus speeds are up by 20 percent.

New York is one of many cities around the country that have worked to make bus routes faster and more appealing to riders. It is long past time for Connecticut to do the same.

The state does have one bus rapid transit project, the 9.4-mile Hartford-New Britain busway, in the pipeline. Buses will ride on a dedicated roadway and then drop passengers off on city streets. If all goes well, it will open in 2014. But beyond that, not much. Officials have talked about faster bus service from Norwalk to Stamford and on a couple of New Haven and Hartford area corridors, but not yet put forward any actual plans.

The state has an array of commuter buses and the serviceable but stop-at-every-corner local buses. What is needed, in some corridors at least, is a middle-tier service buses that just call at major stops. Those stops should have substantial shelters that contain GPS information about when the next bus will arrive.

The state Department of Transportation has historically viewed bus service as a kind of welfare program. It's time to change that idea and consider buses an asset, an ally in the fight to stop global warming and reduce dependence on foreign or deepwater oil. When people can be enticed to leave their cars at home, it's a win-win. A related reason to reduce driving is the cost of motor vehicle accidents: $99 billion a year, according to a recent New York Times article.

If buses can be made to move more quickly through New York, certainly they can make a little better time in Hartford.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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