Choosing to commute by bus is good for the environment and the economy. We use less gas and create less congestion. Money that we would otherwise spend on fuel is reserved for the local economy. Less wear and tear is applied to our roads and vehicles. It is hard to argue that choosing public transportation is a destructive act, but even so, it is not always the rational choice. When competing with the car, the bus must compete for cost, time and comfort.
For many, especially those who work downtown, the bus beats the car for cost. It costs only a dollar and a quarter, and parking is not an issue.
For many, the bus beats the car for comfort. You don't have to deal with traffic. You can read, listen to music or just enjoy the sights. Personally, I love reading on the bus. If I am in the middle of a good book, I can't wait for my commute to see what happens next.
Last semester, I conducted a survey for a paper I was writing about the Hartford bus system. Results showed that one third of people don't ride the bus because trips take too long. One reason that trips take so long is because buses stop at almost every street corner. Sometimes the bus will pick up one person at one corner, one person at the next and so on down the route.
At each corner, the bus must brake, idle and accelerate. It is an unnecessary waste of fuel, money and time, not to mention a significant contributor to congestion.
I have spoken with CT Transit officials about this issue. They would like to consolidate bus stops to improve the efficiency of the existing system. CT Transit would save on fuel costs and trips would take less time if buses spent more time cruising and less time stopping. If the time required to commute by bus were decreased, the bus would be the practical choice for more commuters and CT Transit should see the difference in its bottom line.
For starters, CT Transit wants to consolidate stops on the Albany Avenue and Farmington Avenue routes. The agency has had some trouble coordinating this with the city's Departments of Public Works, but apparently the DPW is now ready to go. CT Transit is also looking into three limited-stop runs along Farmington Avenue, where the bus would stop only at a few major intersections. This quasi-express service should be a help for commuters heading into the city or out to Blue Back Square.
Consolidating stops will mean that some people will have a longer walk, but only slightly longer. In many cases around Greater Hartford, bus stops are less than 50 yards from each other. Exceptions can always be made for persons with disabilities.
We can't expect everyone to ride the bus. For many it just isn't practical. But for some, the difference between taking the bus and taking the car is a matter of minutes. Consolidating bus stops would cost our region only the time necessary to decide on the locations of the consolidated bus stops and redo the signage (including schedules). Consolidating bus stops would let CT Transit operate a better bus system at lower cost. For the environment, for a greater Greater Hartford, let's consolidate our bus stops.
Anton Rick-Ossen commutes by bus from his home in Hartford to his job at Pratt & Whitney in East Hartford, and is a part-time graduate student in economics at Trinity College.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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