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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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