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Try Regional Bus Shelters

February 21, 2005

The sad state of Hartford's bus shelters points indirectly to a weakness in Connecticut's governmental structure. Hartford has been dithering over its bus shelter contract for a couple of years. As a result, maintenance has slipped and many of the shelters are covered with graffiti and awash in litter. A number of shelters have broken or missing panels of plexiglass, compromising their ability to offer shelter. They are a disgrace.

But should there even be a city contract? The buses are run regionally. The Hartford Division of Connecticut Transit runs local or express bus service in 26 towns in the capital area, under contract with the state Department of Transportation.

Economy of scale suggests there should be a regional bus shelter contract. The problem is that there is no regional entity with the authority to run such a program. As a result, bus shelters in the region range from the very bad to the quite nice. Some towns have built attractive shelters at some stops, other towns haven't. The region doesn't even have a uniform system of bus signs. Not all bus stops are shoveled when it snows, forcing passengers to clamber over roadside snow piles to get to the bus.

This shows no respect for bus riders. It treats them as second-class citizens. That's wrong. People who take the bus are being good citizens. They aren't putting cars on the road, using up fuel, creating more pollution. We should encourage the use of buses, not make the experience unpleasant.

Regional bus shelter contracts are used in places such as Bridgeport and Westchester County, N.Y. Typically, a regional government or agency will hire a contractor to sell advertising that is posted on the shelters in return for maintaining them. Revenues are shared with the communities.

Obviously Connecticut doesn't have county government. The DOT owns the buses. If the towns agreed, DOT could designate Connecticut Transit, or the Greater Hartford Transit District, or the Capitol Region Council of Governments as the regional agency to create such a contract. If it provides better service to bus riders, why not consider it?

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.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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