Updates on Hartford Transportation Initiatives at City Council’s Planning and Economic Development Committee
Whizzing Through the City at 110 MPH
January 04, 2010
Tonight’s transportation update meeting was geared for transportation insiders, or at least for those who have been closely following these issues for the last thirty years. Councilor Cotto and Councilor Ritter both pointed out that there should be more outreach to the community, particularly those who may be affected by the proximity of the proposed busway to their properties. Initially, one of the speakers dismissed this sentiment, saying that the New Britain-to-Hartford Busway, has been in the works for years. It has been a slow project, but expecting that all residents are up to speed with the project shows a lack of understanding about the high mobility of the Hartford community. The population is so transient that patrons are forced to renew our library cards every single year! That should indicate how unlikely it is that the average resident knows about what began years back. If you are not employed with a transportation agency or sitting on one of the transportation organizations, not a local politician, not affiliated with an NRZ, and not a nerd who spends hours sitting in meetings about electrified rail, do you really know what is going on?
Lyle Wray of the Capitol Region Council of Governments (CRCOG) gave voice to an earth-shaking concept that few grasp, judging from the back-and-forth editorials that have appeared in recent years: the busway/freight train issue is “not either/or. It’s both/and.” He explained that “busways are not a thing of the past” and that they are the “preferred technology” for “medium-density cities.”
State Rep. David McCluskey spoke to the need for cross town buses. I personally understand this need. If I want to go from Parkville/West End to the University of Hartford, I have to take a bus downtown and then catch another one up Albany to Bloomfield Avenue. This doubles the distance that I should be traveling from Point A to Point B. The circulating bus downtown, Star Shuttle, covers such a small distance that an able-bodied person would have trouble justifying even using it unless it’s below zero or above 90 degrees. McCluskey also talked about how what exists now for riders waiting downtown is shameful. The bus shelters along Main Street are open, and in some cases, missing windows. Creating another “Isle of Safety” or using Union Station as the local bus hub were a few options he named.
Bob Painter, speaking on behalf of the Hub of Hartford, recapped some of the discussions happening about the Aetna Viaduct. The viaduct plan will be presented to the DOT sometime in the Spring. While some may feel that racing through the city via the highway is as natural as breathing, Painter said that the highway “hinders economic development.”
Interestingly, some proponents of developing rail transit have been using rhetoric similar to what was utilized when I-84 was being sold as a project to cut through Hartford. I have heard at several meetings how great it will be for the train to roll up, let Aetna employees off at a platform next to the building, so they can basically walk right in the back door. Not too different from putting a highway exit next to a former department store downtown, no? There is such a thing as being too convenient. I want employees from out of town to spend some money here. Let them walk a few blocks past coffee shops, delis, and a nice restaurant or two. Otherwise, what incentive do they have to do anything but walk directly into their offices, work for eight hours, and then go directly home? For once, let’s choose quality of life, safety, and vibrancy over perceived convenience.
Reprinted with permission of Kerri Provost, author of the blog RealHartford.
To view other stories on this topic, search RealHartford at http://www.realhartford.org/.