I recently took a tour of the CTfastrak
guideway with a couple fellow HYPE members, guided by the Department of Transportation
and Michael Baker Engineering
, and was quite surprised by what I saw. The Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) System
from New Britain to Hartford that has provoked strong reactions since its announcement is already partially built, and should open for business in early 2015.
My first impression was that the 9.4-mile guideway, running through eleven stations from downtown New Britain to Union Station, is very impressive from an engineering standpoint. The route is very well-planned, intersecting with local traffic in only three spots, running parallel to the Amtrak line for several miles, and spanning several newly-built bridges that allow a 20-minute trip time (click here
for a detailed Google Map). The stations fit seamlessly into their surrounding neighborhoods, and the aluminum awnings with green accents are modern and distinctive. They will all have electronic screens with continuously-updating schedules, and stations where riders can pre-pay to minimize loading time – both features that will also be available in an app. The Parkville station is particularly cool, containing a park-like square and canopy where community events can be hosted.
The tour’s biggest surprise was that the fastrak is not being designed as a “park and ride.” In other words, the stations have no more than fifty parking spaces, and it is expected that the riders will walk or bike from nearby residential areas, or connect to the fastrak from other bus lines running from their commuter lots. The fastrak plan feels very bike friendly, providing a multi-use path next to the guideway for several miles, bike racks at all of the stations, and buses that should come specially equipped for bikers; with a potential future bike-share program. This all ties in with iQuilt
’s focus on biking, and could have a positive impact on the environment and quadriceps definition in the region.
The most important new fact I learned is
that the guideway is not the sole focus of CTfastrak. The guideway is the “spine” of the fastrak system, but the project is designed to make the entire public transit grid in the region more efficient and convenient. The fastrak buses will routinely drive off the guideway and into the surrounding neighborhoods to bring riders directly to popular destinations (click here
for a local service map). The fastrak routes will also connect with 96 other bus routes and two rail lines from Hartford to Waterbury, potentially improving the efficiency and service-frequency of the whole system (click here
for a regional service map).
From an economic standpoint, those involved with the project are optimistic that it could spur development and improve property values along the guideway, especially in New Britain. The New Britain and Newington neighborhoods near the fastrak stations could become attractive destinations for young professionals hoping for easy access to Hartford while saving on transportation and housing. An influx of residents could support additional commercial development along the guideway, which would be a welcome revitalization of this old industrial corridor.
No matter your political stance on the CTfastrak, the Greater Hartford Region has a vested interest in its success. If the guideway’s appearance is any indication, it has a good chance of exceeding expectations.
This article was written by Steven Zakrzewski, Vice-Chair of HYPE’s Civic Engagement Committee and civil litigation attorney at the downtown firm of O’Connell, Attmore & Morris, LLC. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or connect on Linkedin.