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Don’t Call It A Busway

by | May 22, 2012 5:22pm
() Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Labor, State Budget, Transportation

Hugh McQuaid photo

It’s been referred to by critics as the “Busway Boondoggle,” the “Magic Bus,” and the “busway to nowhere,” but at a rainy groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday the New Britain-Hartford busway project was officially branded “CTfastrak.”

On the corner of Park Street and Francis Avenue in Hartford, the future site of one of the project’s 11 planned stations, proponents heralded the project as a job-creator that will decrease traffic congestion.

The 9.4 mile dedicated bus route will be built on an abandoned railroad corridor, running from New Britain to Hartford. When it opens in 2014, buses will be running the route every three to six minutes during peak traffic hours.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said the project—funded by $455 million in federal funds and $112 million from the state—will create 4,000 temporary jobs and 100 permanent jobs.

“We’re talking about 11 stations being built, we’re talking about buses running every three to four minutes,” Malloy said. “... This is really quite exceptional. If you think about transit oriented development, this opens a whole new corridor for that kind of development, to grow our economy.”

Ed Reilly of the Hartford Building Trades Council said building the busway will create desperately needed construction jobs.

“For two years in the state of Connecticut, we have been in an economic depression in the construction industry. Not a recession, a depression with 40 percent unemployment. Today is a great day for us,” he said.

Malloy said the busway will also be instrumental when the state begins repairing or replacing the Aetna Viaduct, the long elevated section of I-84 in Hartford.

“When that project gets underway in earnest, we’re going to need alternative ways to deliver more people to Hartford and this also needs to be seen in that context,” he said.

However, the project has been met with criticism from opponents who say it’s a waste of money that won’t be used.

Hugh McQuaid photo

Sen. Joseph Markley

Though the governor’s office said the New Britain-Hartford Busway was an informal title used during the project’s planning phase, Sen. Joseph Markley, R-Southington, said the state rebranded the project because it’s unpopular.

“Because the old name has such a stink about it. They’re trying to make people forget how much they dislike the project,” Markley said.

“They do this a lot with things that have a bad name about them. So prisons become correctional institutions. It doesn’t make people more anxious to go there,” he continued.

Of the new name, Markley said it could be considered accurate in a sense, if they’re talking about a fast-track to throwing money away.

Speaking with reporters earlier in the day, Malloy joked that he hadn’t heard the criticisms of the busway. He said the project needed a name.

“It is to appropriately be named, I think is the reason that that’s been done,” he told reporters. “Listen, I think this is a very important project. In the short run it puts up to 4,000 people to work. In the long run it creates permanent jobs.”

Judd Everhart, spokesman for the Department of Transportation, dismissed Markley’s claim, saying the “Busway” was never the official name for the project, it was shorthand.

“The ‘Ctfastrak’ name was developed to conceptually describe this new type of ‘hybrid’ public transportation service – the first of its kind in Connecticut.” he said in a statement. “... CTfastrak combines the fast, traffic-free service of a train with the frequent, direct-to-your-destination flexibility of a bus.

Hugh McQuaid photo

“The idea of using a new name to somehow make people ‘forget’ about the project is absurd. We believe the project stands on its own merits,” Everhart said.

Markley said he didn’t think voters would agree. He said he attended Tuesday’s groundbreaking ceremony just to see who was taking ownership of the project. At the end of the day, it was pretty clear the governor was, he said.

“I think the governor, as we speak, is digging his own political grave up there with those shovels,” he said.

While Markley is not alone in his opposition to the busway, the project is not universally hated by Republicans. MetroHartford Alliance CEO Oz Griebel, who ran an unsuccessful bid for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 2010, praised Malloy’s efforts on the project.

However, he said just because the busway’s being built doesn’t mean people will actually ride on it.

“So as this project unfolds, it’s going to be critical to all of us to make sure we’re promoting the busway, promoting the options that are out there so that people embrace this as a true commuter option and that ridership that DOT has projected becomes a reality,” he said.

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Comments

(11) Archived Comments

posted by: Paul Wessel | May 22, 2012  7:43pm

Ideology aside, projects like this make a lot of sense.  We love trains and light rail, even if we don’t have the density to support them. Given our population and how dispersed we are, bus rapid transit is the way to go.  My guess?  Once it’s up and running, we’ll find a lot of folks clamoring for their own CTfastrack projects.

posted by: Lawrence | May 22, 2012  8:22pm

Markley, Betts et. al. love to speculate about the effect that 4,100 new jobs will have on the November elections. Even though Rowland, Rell, and the GOP Senate (in 2006) unanimously endorsed this busway project.

What about the GOP opposing paid sick days, medicial marijuana, and increasing the minimum wage—70% support among all CT voters?

I guess the GOP “dug their own political graves” with those votes, as we’ll see come November.

posted by: DrHunterSThompson | May 23, 2012  12:52am

Seriously though, how many people are going to ride this? Not many, at best. Sure it has turned into a political and ideological debate, but the reality is we have no money and these funds are better spent elsewhere. 4100 jobs is nothing for an investment this size.

HST

posted by: hartfordresident | May 23, 2012  10:01am

Raise the cost of parking in downtown Hartford (use the $ to better fund schools), and fill in the excess surface lots like those around the State Capitol.  People will start using this en masse.

posted by: Noteworthy | May 23, 2012  10:13am

Another two word marketing genious - did it cost us another $500K like “Still Revolutionary?” I hope there are traffic counts before and after this Bedazzeled Bus goes into operation. That will be the telling information on whether it is worth this money. As for the construction trades - Just because your membership is out of work is not a good reason to spend a half a billion dollars on a project with a dubious future. One other noteworthy post - how can you have a fast track to Hartford with all those stops? Oops…

posted by: SocialButterfly | May 23, 2012  10:37am

DrHunterSThompson: As a Democrat who voted for Gov. Dannel P. Malloy—why are you now complaining—“THE REALITY IS WE HAVE NO MONEY AND THESE FUNDS ARE BETTER SPENT ELSEWERE.”

If you were really “a concerned citizen”—you would have voted for a lifetime businessman—instead of voting your party Democratic line—for a career Democratic politician.

For an educated person—perhaps you should vote like an “educated voter” next time—instead of, as a “die-hard Democrat!”

“Die-hard Democratic votes in the past election—are now killing our state—into a fiscal nightmare!”

posted by: Realist | May 23, 2012  2:45pm

The party of “No” (Unless it is a Conservative at the helm) is at it again.
As lawrence pointed out this was enthusiastically supported by the No party back when they were in the drivers seat..what has changed significantly to cause them to oppose it?
You are doing a fantastic job Governor! Keep it up Legislature!

posted by: GMR | May 23, 2012  2:57pm

GMR

Would raising the parking rates in Hartford bring in more revenue?  Or would people just decide to go somewhere else to eat / shop / etc?  And what about people that don’t live where the busway goes?  You want to raise their parking rates because they aren’t riding a bus they can’t ride anyway?

posted by: Realist | May 23, 2012  2:57pm

I have to disagree with you DrHunter.

This is building for the future, “if we build it they will come”, the traffic situation will not be resolved by sitting on our hands, Many folks in that corridor do not have personal transportation and a little blood NOW will cost us much less than doing damage control then.
I realize this is a “Progressive” way of thinking but seriously ALL changes are not a bad thing. it just seems that many of a conservative bent are stuck in the now instead of considering the what if.
Where would we be now if Eisenhower was fought tooth and nail by the democrats against initiating our national interstates? We would still take weeks to get to the other coast and we certainly would not be the economic powerhouse that we were and can be again.
Don’t fear change!

posted by: ... | May 23, 2012  10:37pm

...

A reminder what Tom Foley’s administration (or at least his personally funded policy institute) would have approached CTfastrack (or the busway if you’d like): www.ctpolicyinstitute.org/content/CPI_Jobs_Creation.pdf (see page 6 on infrastructure investments, as well as page 7).

posted by: CTRailCommuters | May 24, 2012  10:36am

Despite being a “rail guy”, I strongly support this project.  If bus service can draw enough riders, conversion to rail is always possible.

Why the opposition to the Busway?  See http://tiny.cc/rhhtew

JIM CAMERON / Chairman