– Symposium urges bus rapid transit as a solution to transit needs

By Connecticut Fund for the Environment / Save the Sound

Bus rapid transit is the wave of the future

Hartford, CT – In an effort to broaden support for moving forward with bus rapid transit (BRT) in Connecticut, the CEO of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transportation Authority, Joe Calabrese, gave the keynote address at a Bus Rapid Transit Symposium held at the legislative office building today.

Joined by policymakers, planners, transit experts, environmental groups, and the public, Calabrese spoke on the success of Cleveland’s HealthLine, a bus rapid transit system that has exceeded ridership expectations and spurred nearly $4 billion in development along Cleveland’s Euclid Avenue.

“Bus rapid transit is the wave of the future,” said Kate Slevin, executive director for the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a non-profit transportation policy watchdog organization. “It uses modern technology and modest infrastructure improvements to speed service and improve customer experience. Plus, it is flexible enough to work in both urban and suburban areas.”

BRT combines state-of-the-art technology and road design to make buses faster and more efficient – and more able to meet increasing public demand. Traveling in dedicated bus lanes, the BRT system prioritizes buses at traffic signals, allowing them to move quickly on congested city streets. Additionally, since riders pay before they board, the buses adhere more closely to schedules, which are available real-time to riders.

In Connecticut, despite steadily increasing public transit ridership, BRT is poised to become a reality in only a couple of communities. The Connecticut Department of Transportation is currently looking for federal dollars to implement a 9.6 mile busway from New Britain to Hartford and the Southwest Regional Planning Agency recently completed a study on BRT from Greenwich to Norwalk.

“A network of local and express buses can help meet the growing transit needs of Connecticut residents, especially in less urban areas,” said Amanda Kennedy, Associate Planner of Regional Plan Association.

According to the Connecticut Department of Transportation, the New Britain to Hartford busway would carry an estimated 15,000 people per day between New Britain and the capital city.

David Kooris, Vice President of Regional Plan Association, commented, “Enhanced rail service alone can never meet the transit needs of our diverse and dispersed communities and must be coupled with buses, bike infrastructure, and pedestrian enhancements to create real transportation alternatives for Connecticut.”

Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a regional transportation policy watchdog, reports that in 2008, bus ridership is up 5% from 2007 to 34 million rides. Trains have seen similar boosts in ridership: the New Haven Metro-North line is up 3.9% to 38 million rides in 2008, and Shoreline East ridership is up 12% to 58,400 rides for the same timeframe. Beyond the commuter hassles of gridlock and wasted time, the transportation sector contributes 40 percent of Connecticut’s greenhouse gas emissions, making it a key component to reaching the state’s climate change goals –10 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.

“Connecticut faces enormous transportation challenges, so we need to look at how Connecticut can improve its transit system and use an intermodal approach to getting riders where they need to be,” said Karen Burnaska, Coordinator of Transit for Connecticut, a statewide coalition of organizations dedicated to improving transportation in the state. “An affordable, available, and reliable state system is critical to our economic recovery and will help position Connecticut to meet our greenhouse gas reduction goals as well.”

“BRT can provide better service to communities currently underserved by public transportation, and can help promote transit-oriented development which provides the state with a stable economic base,” said Ryan Lynch, Connecticut Coordinator for the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. “We hope to encourage policymakers to explore BRT as a way to reduce roadway congestion, help protect our environment and spur business development.”

The Bus Rapid Transit Symposium was sponsored by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, Central Connecticut State University, Regional Plan Association, Capitol Region Council of Governments, Connecticut Fund for the Environment, and Transit for Connecticut.

Steve Kliger, Executive Director of the Center for Public Policy and Social Research at Central Connecticut State University, said “as a participant and co-sponsor of this event, our Center is pleased to further our mission by making the many resources of our University available to address the critical public policy issues posed by this forum. We look forward to a substantive and productive dialogue, of practical use to state policymakers.”

About The Tri-State Transportation Campaign

The Tri-State Transportation Campaign is a non-profit advocacy and policy organization working toward a more balanced, transit-friendly, and equitable transportation system in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. http://www.tstc.org.

Connecticut Fund for the Environment is a non-profit organization working to improve air and water quality, minimize the negative impacts of highways, and preserve open space, wetlands and public water supplies.

Regional Plan Association (RPA) is an independent, not-for-profit regional planning organization that improves the quality of life and the economic competitiveness of the 31-county New York-New Jersey-Connecticut region through research, planning, and advocacy.

The Center for Public Policy and Social Research (CPPSR) at Central Connecticut State University is dedicated to enriching the quality of public policy, public service, university outreach, community engagement and applied research in the region and State.

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