Hartford's bus shelters were a mess in the early part of the last decade, full of litter, missing panels of plexiglass and slathered with graffiti. City officials vowed to fix the problem, but didn't.
A few of the worst shelters have been taken down, and some new shelters have been erected. The rest are a little better maintained, but still an embarrassment. When the city's efforts fell short, the Capitol Region Council of Governments took a crack at creating a regional bus shelter program.
After a prolonged and painstaking negotiations, and with the help of a federal grant, it now appears that CRCOG has brokered a regional program that could bring new bus shelters to Hartford and seven surrounding towns as early as next summer.
That is good news. Bus shelters are a front-door concern, something people see and judge the city and the bus system on.
CT Transit will be in charge of the new shelter program. The hope is that advertising revenue will offset some or all of the cost of the new shelters.
The Big Weakness
But the fact that it has taken the better part of a decade to fix what should have been a relatively simple infrastructure problem points to a significant structural weakness in the region's governmental organization: Unlike much of the country, there is no regional transportation authority in Greater Hartford. Instead, there are a number of agencies, each with a hand on a different part of the elephant.
The Greater Hartford Transit District provides a number of services, such as paratransit (public transportation by car, van or minibus), but doesn't run the buses or trains. CT Transit operates the buses, but doesn't set policy. The state Department of Transportation pays the bills, but historically hasn't taken much of an interest in improving service. CRCOG, which has transportation planners but no legal mandate, stepped into the void because someone had to.
But think where the region might be with a powerful transit authority. There might be buses with automatic vehicle tracking, so that passengers with cellphones could tell when the next bus was coming. There might be such things as signal prioritization, dedicated bus lanes, off-vehicle ticketing — services that are common over much of the world. With such an authority, the Hartford-New Britain busway likely would be further along.
There's a reason so many other regions do it this way.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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