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10 ways to get to a more vibrant central Connecticut

 

A vibrant community is a livable community. One that connects people to everything they need – jobs, housing, business opportunities and health care centers—making their lives better and easier. As of March 28, 2015, central Connecticut has exactly that. Introducing CTfastrak. CTfastrak is Connecticut’s first Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, providing state-of-the-art transit service on a bus-only, traffic-free roadway. This valuable system will does so much more than reduce congestion along I-84. It has become an economic engine that will drive central Connecticut to a more vibrant community.

1. Reduced transportation costs

Between high prices for gas, insurance and downtown parking, everyday driving can get expensive. On CTfastrak, riders can avoid these costs. A trip costs the same regular low fare as CTtransit buses—currently $1.50 local fare and distance-based $2.70 to $5.15 express fare. CTfastrak saves money in other ways too. With fewer cars on the road, there are fewer emissions and less wear and tear. Which means less money spent cleaning up air and highways, and more money spent where people need it most.

2. Expanded regional access

Using CTfastrak, passengers travel between New Britain and Hartford in 20 minutes. Express buses from Bristol, Waterbury, Cheshire and Southington use the bus-only roadway to get downtown faster, while circulator and connector routes allow passengers to get to and from destinations within nearby communities. Working together to create a fast-paced network that connects communities and provides a variety of people with easy access to jobs, dining, shopping, health care, education and entertainment throughout the region, including:

  • Major downtown employers, like Aetna, Travelers and many others
  • Central Connecticut State University
  • UConn Health
  • Westfarms Mall
  • St. Francis and Hartford Hospitals
  • Buckland Hills area
  • Bushnell Park
  • XL Center


3. State-of-the-art transit

CTfastrak is more than an innovative solution to a complicated traffic congestion problem. The system incorporates many state-of-the-art technologies designed to provide an efficient, convenient, user-friendly and eco-friendly transportation alternative. CTfastrak includes:

  • Level boarding, so passengers do not have to step up to get on the bus. This speeds up the boarding process for efficient travel and passenger convenience, and also makes it easy for bikes and people who use wheelchairs to get on board.
  • Free WiFi for all CTfastrak bus riders.
  • Pre-pay ticket vending machines at stations, with smart ticketing technology to be offered in late 2015.
  • Real-time bus arrival signs at each station so that riders can wait with greater confidence.
  • A network of closed-circuit television-based security systems, monitoring stations for safety and efficiency.
     
     

4. More customers for local businesses

By improving travel options throughout the region, CTfastrak makes it easier for more people to connect and enjoy local businesses. This new transit system delivers new customers right to their doorsteps, allowing businesses to grow and providing more jobs and opportunities throughout the region.

5. Easy access to jobs

Because people are able to use CTfastrak to reach a variety of regional locations, they may also be able to consider job opportunities that are farther from home—ones they might not have been able to reach without CTfastrak. This means that growing businesses will be able to recruit from farther away, too. Employers can find the right people, and people can find their perfect jobs.

6. Economic development opportunities

Across the country, Bus Rapid Transit systems help communities and their residents prosper. Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) occurs when new businesses and properties are built around stations where people can easily access transit. Typical of TOD, millions of dollars in private investments are already being made in communities around CTfastrak stations. For example, a New York City developer known for commercial and residential projects in Manhattan purchased the only highrise in downtown New Britain for $2.8 million. In Hartford, major residential and mixed-use developments will help bring new residents downtown, including an $80 million high rise on Main Street and a $50 million residential/retail project on Pearl Street. These are just two examples of how CTfastrak is spreading economic vitality across central Connecticut.

7. Stress-free travel

CTfastrak riders can leave their travel worries behind. The bus-only road avoids congestion on I-84 and local roads, helping people connect with work, health care and shopping quickly, without having to deal with the frustrations of driving and parking. The system is easy to use, too. Transit stations feature pre-pay ticketing technology that allows riders to purchase tickets before the bus arrives so they can board the bus through any door. Because buses are tracked by GPS, real-time bus arrival signs keep passengers accurately informed so they can plan accordingly. Once on board, riders can relax and enjoy their trip, taking advantage of free WiFi instead of facing the stress of driving on congested highways.

8. Environmental friendliness

A projected 16,000 rides per day on CTfastrak’s hybrid diesel electric buses by 2030 will take many drivers off of I-84 and other local roads. Without as much traffic, these roads become less congested with reduced wear and tear. Pollution is reduced, too. Plus, CTfastrak inspires sustainable travel, with bike accommodations at beautiful, park-like stations and on board. The system is also helping to clean up Connecticut’s water by creating wetlands as habitats for local wildlife.

9. Recreational trail

Vibrant cities are healthy cities, but for many, it may be hard to find a good time or place to exercise. CTfastrak includes a beautiful five-mile recreational trail that runs along the bus-only roadway between New Britain and Newington. The trail serves as a recreational asset and provides an additional means of getting to stations. By serving more than CTfastrak passengers, the trail enhances the livability of communities along the corridor, becomes a recreational destination, and encourages healthy living.

10. Improved neighborhood livability

Across the nation, communities are experiencing the benefits associated with livable communities, with features that improve the health and well-being of residents through better-built environments. So, what leads to a more vibrant, livable community?

  • Non-auto-centric travel options, including mass transit, biking and walking
  • Healthy, dynamic neighborhood centers
  • Environmental friendliness
  • A variety of housing options throughout neighborhoods
  • Easy access to popular destinations
  • Multigenerational appeal


CTfastrak enhances the region in many ways—improving livability and transforming central Connecticut, helping to make it the place that everybody wants to be!

 

The BRT Difference: How CTfastrak changes the rider experience

Communities across the country are discovering Bus Rapid Transit, a new rapid transit option that combines the speed and passenger amenities of a train, with the flexibility of a bus and includes the latest technologies to improve reliability and provide real-time information for passengers.  

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems like the CTfastrak in central Connecticut offer a high-quality rapid transit experience, and are gaining in popularity for their ease-of-use, speedy service, and level of passenger amenities. More than 20 regions throughout the U.S. – like Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Miami and Boston – have BRT systems in operation. Many more are under development or in the planning stages. 

While all BRT systems have some differences in how they developed and operate, all true BRT’s contain the following major elements. 
 

Running Way/Operating Method

All BRT systems have some form of dedicated or exclusive right-of-way dedicated to bus operations. CTfastrak uses an exclusive, dedicated, bus-only roadway to speed bus travel between New Britain and Hartford. This fully dedicated roadway is the most effective way to provide fast, reliable service by separating buses from mixed traffic. CTfastrak travel time is competitive with auto travel in the corridor, attracting new riders to the system who might otherwise drive. And longer distance routes in the CTfastrak system use less congested portions of the highway system while using the CTfastrak roadway for speedier travel in the most congested portion of the trip between New Britain and Hartford. 
 

Stations

BRT systems have limited stops along the roadway. Rather than 8-10 stops per mile like on a regular bus route, CTfastrak has stops approximately one mile apart on the roadway. CTfastrak’s 10 stations include multiple shelters with seating, bicycle racks, ticket vending machines, maps of routes and the surrounding neighborhood, and landscaping. Station platforms are raised to allow fast, level boarding onto vehicles. Electronic displays at each station let passengers know when their bus will be arriving, and closed circuit cameras at the stations will enhance passenger security. 
 

Vehicles

Sixty-foot, articulated, vehicles are the flagship of the CTfastrak fleet, with a host of passenger conveniences. These include multiple boarding doors, low floors, expedited wheelchair boarding technology, and on-board bike provisions to speed boarding.  Audio and visual announcements aid riders in identifying the next stop. All buses are equipped with closed circuit cameras, and are connected to the vehicle operations center to assure smooth, on-time operations. Finally, CTfastrak’s super low emission, hybrid diesel-electric vehicles use less fuel than and produce lower emissions than traditional diesel buses. These comfortable, modern vehicles are used to operate the frequent shuttle service along the CTfastrak line. CTfastrak services also uses 40-foot transit buses and 45-foot commuter coaches to provide other services that extend along the roadway for part of their route then run on local streets or the limited-access highway system to reach destinations off the roadway.
 

Fare Collection

CTfastrak uses electronic fare collection, with ticket vending machines at stations along the main line. This allows passengers to pre-purchase their fares using cash, credit cards, and other payment methods that may come along in the future without requiring exact change and without paying on the bus itself. This off-board payment system speeds the boarding process by eliminating the need for riders to stop and put money in a fare box when entering the bus, and allowing boarding through multiple doors. All current fare media available now on the regular CTtransit system, from day passes to monthly passes is accepted on CTfastrak.  
 

Intelligent Transportation Systems

The use of cutting-edge technologies – or Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) – is one of the characteristics that differentiate BRT from other types of bus transit services. CTfastrak uses an Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) system that transmits the exact location of the vehicles via satellite Global Positioning Systems or radio signals, allowing riders to receive real-time information on the next bus arrival or next bus stop. This information can be linked through cellular and Internet technology to provide text alerts and travel information to your phone, as well as on the Web. A Computer Aided Dispatch system provides constant communication between CTfastrak vehicles and the Operations Center to monitor performance and keep vehicles running on schedule. ITS elements are used in a variety of ways on the bus and at stations and include bus arrival/departure information, ticket vending machines and ticket validation equipment, audio/visual displays, security equipment, and pedestrian crossing signals. Traffic signal preference is also used at the five at-grade intersections along the CTfastrak roadway to improve travel time. 

video messaging
 

Service and Operations Plan

CTfastrak service operates approximately 18 hours per day, seven days per week, with bus service every 3-7 minutes during peak hours and every 5-15 minutes off-peak depending on your station location. CTfastrak serves as the spine of the regional transit system, providing fast, frequent service through the heavily-traveled corridor between New Britain and Hartford with express, local and circulator routes that will also feed through or connect with the CTfastrak line to provide convenient access to destinations throughout the region. 

new_bus_operations_center
 

Branding 

Like other BRT systems, CTfastrak vehicles have their own unique identity that is distinguishable from the other transit services in the CTtransit system through the use of vehicle wraps and color schemes. The CTtransit system uses all of the key elements of bus rapid transit and the latest techniques in the physical design of the facility as well as the cutting-edge technologies of ITS to provide the quality of customer amenities and the optimized travel time savings through service and operations plan to assure that the system will attract and retain ridership and support the economic vibrancy of the region.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

It's About Connecting Communities

CTfastrak provides a critical link to connect communities in central Connecticut like never before. A new 9.4-mile dedicated roadway for buses serves as the spine of the regional transit system – offering the traffic-free speed of a train, with the convenience of a bus to bring riders directly to their destinations.

Passengers enjoy a fast 20-minute ride on the dedicated CTfastrak line between downtown Hartford and New Britain – less than half the current travel time by bus, and comparable to auto travel between the two cities during off-peak hours. 

The benefits of CTfastrak service also extends to outlying communities, resulting in a streamlined transit system providing fast, convenient access to employment, shopping, educational and cultural destinations throughout the region. To achieve this vision, 68 routes connect with or travel on the CTfastrak guideway. New connector and circulator routes link major employers, communities and activity centers to CTfastrak; many existing routes have been modified to serve CTfastrak stations; and the frequency and days of service have increased on many existing routes.

the benefit of the system

Highlights of the new CTfastrak transit service plan include:

  • A Bristol to Hartford shuttle offering fast, direct service to New Britain and Hartford
  • Frequent round trip shuttle and direct service from CTfastrak stations to Central Connecticut State University 
  • Improved access to Elmwood, Westfarms and UConn Health
  • New, fast access from Waterbury, Cheshire and Southington to New Britain and Hartford


what exactly will direct service provide

 

Sparking New Investment, Transit Oriented Development Plans

Interest by developers in capitalizing on development opportunities along the CTfastrak route has stimulated millions of dollars in private investment around future stations.

In downtown Hartford, major residential and mixed-use developments will help bring new residents downtown. Examples include an $80 million 286-unit residential high-rise at 777 Main Street, a $50 million 205-unit residential/retail project on Pearl Street and the $22 million 200-unit mixed-use renovation of the former Sonesta Hotel on Constitution Plaza.

Exciting new development and revitalization is also occurring in nearby New Britain. For example, a New York City developer known for its commercial and residential projects in Manhattan purchased the only high-rise in downtown New Britain in 2011 for $2.8 million, and recently debuted the renovated property to brokers and potential tenants. According to Gerry Amodio, executive director of the New Britain Downtown District, the developer is considering converting the property to mixed-use residential condos with commercial on the ground level. If that occurred, Amodio said it would be the first significant mixed-use development in New Britain.

Amodio indicated other developers have been buying and renovating smaller properties in New Britain, and several business owners near the CTfastrak line have been revitalizing their properties to attract future riders and potential investors.

from a real estate perspective

“For property owners it will quite frankly increase their property values and make them much more attractive to other people,” said Amodio.

Also in the works is a possible $35 million mixed-use development near the future Cedar Street station in the Town of Newington on a former industrial welding property.

This influx of investment in anticipation of the CTfastrak system mirrors what has occurred in cities throughout the U.S. that have implemented new high capacity transit lines – and numerous studies have shown a connection between proximity to transit stations and increased property values and economic development.

Recognizing the importance of maximizing the community’s investment in the CTfastrak system and guiding new ‘Transit Oriented Development’ (TOD) that encourages ridership and walkable connections between stations and nearby housing, employment and activity centers, cities along the CTfastrak route have also begun to undertake efforts to implement TOD plans and guidelines around future CTfastrak stations.

As part of its TOD pilot program, the City of Hartford has created a Downtown Convergence TOD Area encompassing a half-mile radius around Union Station in downtown Hartford, which will include a TOD “overlay zone” to favor mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly development. The city is creating station area plans, which include evaluating the area around the station for potential development scenarios, exploring opportunities for public-private partnerships to facilitate development, and designing potential streetscape improvements to enhance walkable connections between the train station and downtown businesses and attractions. These efforts will enhance the redevelopment that has already occurred in recent years in downtown, such as the Adriaen’s Landing site, and will help complete the city’s vision for a vibrant, pedestrianā€focused downtown where people want to live, work and play.

sparking investment

In New Britain, a new Streetscape Master Plan, expected to get underway later this year, will help transform the areas around CTfastrak stations to make them more pedestrian and bike-friendly – and better connect riders with the city’s downtown.

Both projects were made possible through state TOD grants administered by CTDOT, and are aimed at fostering economic development by supporting local projects that connect state residents to job opportunities, housing, cultural centers, educational facilities and more.

“The more convenient public transportation is, the more people will take advantage of it. Transit-oriented development keeps everyone moving toward that goal,” said DOT Commissioner James P. Redeker. “Livable, walkable and ‘bike-able’ community development around and near transit stops and stations is what we are trying to achieve. Easy access means increasing ridership.”

 

What is a "One Seat Ride"?

CTfastrak makes travel for work, school, entertainment and shopping in central Connecticut dramatically faster and easier by offering riders the convenience of direct service to their destination without the need to transfer.

This One Seat Ride service plan is possible through a new system of transit routes – including express commuter routes, as well as local, connector and circulator routes – to link key employers, neighborhoods and activity centers with CTfastrak. The One Seat Ride service plan includes:

  • New commuter express service routes to downtown Hartford from Waterbury and improved commuter express service from Cheshire and Southington. These routes primarily serve long-distance commuters and operate between the Waterbury Metro-North train station, park-and-ride lots along I-84, downtown New Britain and downtown Hartford. Commuter service uses I-84, Route 72 and the CTfastrak guideway for a fast ride to downtown New Britain and Hartford – and loops through downtown Hartford, as well as Asylum Hill and Capitol Hill, to conveniently deliver commuters near their workplace.
     
  • New local shuttle routes, which operate along the CTfastrak guideway and provide continuing direct service to major activity and employment centers away from the main route:
    • A New Britain to Hartford shuttle provides the primary service on CTfastrak guideway, with a 20-minute connection between the two downtown areas. This service operates much like a light rail line, with frequent service from early morning until late at night, seven days a week. Once in Hartford, the shuttle loops through downtown, making frequent stops to provide convenient, direct access to riders’ destinations.
    • A Bristol to Hartford shuttle also operates on CTfastrak guideway, and continues beyond New Britain to downtown Bristol. This route has the same frequency of service and hours of operation as the New Britain to Hartford shuttle, and together these routes form the primary service along CTfastrak .
    • Two new routes providing direct service to Westfarms Mall, UConn Health, and CCSU from downtown Hartford and New Britain, using CTfastrak guideway between the Elmwood Station and downtown Hartford.

Each of these new routes allow riders the speed of using a new, dedicated roadway for transit service, combined with the convenience of direct service to their destinations.

Additionally, several new connector and circulator routes connect to CTfastrak, providing an easy transfer to link riders from their neighborhoods to major destinations throughout the region.

  • A CCSU Connector shuttle loops through Central Connecticut State University and uses CTfastrak between stations at Cedar and East Street. This shuttle is an addition to the new direct service between CCSU and downtown Hartford and New Britain via CTfastrak.
  • The Hospitals-Capitol Connector shuttles employees, patients and visitors from the CTfastrak Sigourney Street station to St. Francis and Hartford Hospitals, and also provides convenient shuttle service to the Capitol Hill and Asylum Hill areas.
  • The West Hartford-Bishops Corner Connector links Flatbush Station with West Hartford Center and Bishop’s Corner and provides a new north-south route to the west of downtown Hartford.
  • The Newington Circulator connects with the downtown New Britain, Newington Junction and Cedar Street CTfastrak stations, and circulates throughout Newington to provide access to local shopping, recreation, medical facilities and other activities.

what is one seat one ride