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
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.
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