It’s been a year since the launch of CTfastrak, and there was plenty to cheer for at yesterday’s celebration at the Flatbush Avenue station in West Hartford. The service, once considered “controversial,” has seen over 3 million riders with average weekday ridership reaching as high as 16,500 (well above the expected 11,000).
It’s safe to say Connecticut’s investment in bus rapid transit has been a good move. Now the question is how to build on that success in the years to come.
CTfastrak Route 101, which connects Hartford and New Britain via the bus-only guideway, has seen heavy ridership but some other routes, like the Route 140 shuttle to Central Connecticut State University, have not. According to the Hartford Courant, the Connecticut Department of Transportation is “analyzing ridership data to decide where to beef up or reduce schedules later this year, and might adjust or combine some routes.”
The existing CTfastrak routes serve areas to the south and west of Hartford, but that’s soon going to change. It was announced in February that the first phase of CTfastrak’s expansion east of the Connecticut River will be an express bus between downtown Hartford and the University of Connecticut campus in Storrs.
Future CTfastrak routes won’t operate in an exclusive right-of-way anything like the 9.4-mile BRT guideway that existing routes use. Instead, they will be limited stop routes on branded vehicles with features that may include queue jumps and transit signal priority — not full-featured bus rapid transit. Tri-State has said that “CTfastrak is the region’s first true bus rapid transit system,” but it would be more accurate to say “CTfastrak has the region’s first true BRT corridor.”
Despite some minor setbacks, it looks like there’s good momentum for TOD along the BRT corridor: New Britain and West Hartford are moving ahead with new TOD projects, a bill that would establish a Transit Corridor Development Assistance Authority has earned widespread support, and ConnDOT is hosting an April 4 open house where it will gather ideas from the public to help shape TOD near CTfastrak stations. There’s no doubt that CTfastrak has transformed Metro Hartford’s transportation network, but we’re still yet to see its impact on land use and development in the region.