Gov. Dannel Malloy, Lt. Gov. Nancy, and other officials celebrated the one-year anniversary of the opening of the CTfastrak system on Monday morning in West Hartford.
By Ronni Newton
The Flatbush Avenue CTfastrak station in West Hartford was the scene of a celebration Monday morning, with Gov. Dannel Malloy, Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, Department of Transportation Comm. James Redeker, CRCOG Executive Dir. Lyle Wray, West Hartford Mayor Scott Slifka, and Newington Mayor Roy Zartarian joining other state and local officials to mark the one-year anniversary of the official launch of the CTfastrak system. All arrived by CTfastrak from Union Station in Hartford.
“If you follow the history of this project you might say that I come from the skeptic wing of the state, and I’m hear to say that I am glad to be proven wrong,” West Hartford Mayor Scott Slifka said. Hearing the stories from people in the community who are positively impacted by being able to use the service every day has helped change his mind.
Slifka was heading to catch a plane from Bradley Airport right after the press conference, and said he looks forward to the day when he can have a direct connection – something Redeker said is forthcoming.
West Hartford Deputy Mayor Shari Cantor, who will presumably succeed Slifka when he resigns later this spring after the town budget has been approved, also attended the anniversary celebration and is a supporter of CTfastrak, Slifka said.
“Everyone likes a success and this is one,” Malloy said. The building costs came in slightly under budget, he said, and according to a fact sheet operating expenses are on budget.
“Here we are a year later, we are meeting targets we didn’t expect to meet until 2030, and this is after one year of operation.” Malloy said. “What we are doing is linking people to their employment options within this system,” he said.
Ridership goals intended for 2030 have already been reached, and Malloy said that on Sept. 4, 2015, there were 18,000 riders using the system in a single day, with average usage of 14,000 – 16,000 being reached on a regular basis. The one-year goal for daily ridership was 11,180.
Malloy said that he expects ridership to continue to grow as the workforce continues to change. “Habits will change with time,” said Malloy.
Malloy also announced that future positive changes in West Hartford will include a farmers’ market at the Flatbush Avenue station beginning this summer, as well as affordable housing in the area. He also said that a heating system will be installed on the platform by next winter.
“We’re seeing some real activity … some really good things happening.”
Plans to expand east of the Connecticut River have been driven by the success of this system. “It’s what we want to see built across the state of Connecticut, it’s what our transportation vision is for the long haul,” said Malloy, urging legislatures to support the transportation “lock box.”
According to Redeker, some form of CTfastrak will be expanded to Manchester by the summer. Future plans are to expand the network to UConn’s Storrs campus.
Redeker noted that CTfastrak’s rewards program is another asset to riders, with almost 60 partners now in the system. In West Hartford, new partners include A Little Something Bakery and Panache – both of which are located across the street from the Flatbush Avenue station. Corner Pug, located across from the Elmwood station, is also a partner. Black-Eyed Sally’s is a new partner in Hartford, and others have been added throughout the system. Click here for the complete list.
Also attending the celebration were the “commercials” – those individuals who gave such great testimonials about their experience on CTfastrak that their stories were turned into commercials.
“This fits with the core of what regions try to do, which is getting connected,” Wray said. There are 150,000 jobs within a half mile of the CTfastrak corridor, he said. “This also fits with connecting to New York City by rail starting in 2017,” said Wray, noting that a rail station is planned for the space just on the other side of the Flatbush Avenue station in West Hartford. “This has been a huge achievement for the region.”
With the future infrastructure investments need to be made on I-84, Malloy said that the CTfastrak system is going to be “very very important to getting people to and from work during that period of construction.”
Although he could not cite specific statistics about the impact of CTfastrak on reducing traffic on I-84, Malloy said that’s difficult to determine because at the same time there are now more people employed. “We’re seeing habits changing,” he said, but it won’t happen overnight.
“Twenty-one percent in a survey of the folks using this system said they were not using any bus system before this opened,” Malloy said. “Quite frankly that’s a great number.”
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