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West Hartford Riders Take Advantage of Free CTfastrak Experience

Doug Hamilton, who works at Realgy Energy Services in West Hartford, board the CTfastrak bus at the Flatbush Ave. station to ride home to Berlin on Monday. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Connecticut Department of Transportation Commissioner James Redeker was at the Flatbush Avenue station in West Hartford Monday afternoon, and said the initial response to the service was ‘great.’

A Hartford-bound CTfastrak bus pulls up to the Flatbush Avenue station. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

A Hartford-bound CTfastrak bus pulls up to the Flatbush Avenue station. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

By Ronni Newton

Service on the CTfastrak Bus Rapid Transit system began on Saturday, but Monday, March 30, was the first real business day that the system was put to the test.

“The initial response has been great,” said Connecticut Department of Transportation Commissioner James Redeker, who spent several hours on Monday afternoon at West Hartford’s Flatbush Avenue station, speaking with riders and getting feedback about the system.

Redeker said that the weekend was busy, with even some of the 60-foot flexible buses, that can accommodate 55 seated and 19 standing riders, full to capacity as people took advantage of free service to test out the system during their free time.

Doug Hamilton, who works at Realgy Energy Services in West Hartford, board the CTfastrak bus at the Flatbush Ave. station to ride home to Berlin on Monday. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Doug Hamilton, who works at Realgy Energy Services in West Hartford, board the CTfastrak bus at the Flatbush Ave. station to ride home to Berlin on Monday. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

“Today people were using it to go to work, and CCSU students were riding for the first time,” Redeker said.

Doug Hamilton lives in Berlin but works at Realgy Energy Systems on Oakwood Avenue in West Hartford. He said Monday that he was “afraid to try the system this morning” because he had to get to work on time, but was using CTfastrak to return home to Berlin in the evening. Hamilton, who has lived in both Manhattan and San Francisco, said he is accustomed to using mass transit. “We really need something like this,” he said.

Some of the kinks that had appeared over the weekend and on Monday morning had been worked out by the afternoon, Redeker said. The signs that indicate when buses will arrive at the platform are GPS-operated and require drivers to sign in, which they didn’t always remember to do at first, he said.

A 60-foot bus negotiates the turn from the Flatbush Avenue station in West Hartford en route to Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

A 60-foot bus negotiates the turn from the Flatbush Avenue station in West Hartford en route to Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Redeker explained that the system is much more extensive than just the “101” buses that shuttle back and forth between Hartford and New Britain on the guideway. “There are more than 700 buses per day that use the bus guideway,” he said, as well as connections available to regular CT Transit buses.

“One rider told me that he would spend $50 a day taking a cab to work in Newington,” Redeker said, and even once the fees go into effect will be able to travel to and from his workplace for just $3 per day. For certain commuters, the physical end-to-end connection between Hartford and New Britain will simplify the process of getting to places. Weekend service to communities such as Waterbury, Bristol, and Plainville is also expanded, he said.

View of the bus guideway heading from Flatbush Avenue toward the Elmwood station.  Photo credit: Ronni Newton

View of the bus guideway heading from Flatbush Avenue toward the Elmwood station. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

“You can get to Bradley without a car by catching a connector at the Convention Center,” Redeker said. Riders can also use the CTfastrak connector bus to Waterbury and then catch a train to New York.

Redeker said that CTfastrak will be able to add specialty routes for events, such as concerts in Hartford and games at Rentschler Field. “You don’t need a regular route. That’s a great benefit of bus vs. rail. In effect, you can go almost anywhere,” he said.

Service runs from 4 a.m. until 1 a.m. Only the New Britain station is manned, but Redeker said there are security cameras and emergency call buttons at all stations. All buses are camera-equipped. The State Police patrol the guideway, he said. The entire system is ADA accessible.

All station are ADA accessible, with audio as well as Braille signage.  Photo credit: Ronni Newton

All station are ADA accessible, with audio as well as Braille signage. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

The free service will last through Sunday, April 5, and Redeker said that some other actitvities will be planned to raise public awareness. There will be a CTfastrak 15K and team relay, from New Britain to Hartford, held on the guideway on May 3. “We’re looking at some bicycle events, and other running events, too,” Redeker said.

Redeker said it will be difficult to gauge ridership immediately because the service will be free through April 5. “But right now having full buses is good enough for me,” he said.

The CTfastrak transit system provides direct service to and from Waterbury, Cheshire, Southington, Bristol, Plainville, New Britain, Newington, West Hartford, Hartford, East Hartford and Manchester with routes that take advantage of the bus-only CTfastrak roadway. The CTfastrak system offers a one-seat, no-transfer ride to many major regional employment, shopping and healthcare destinations as well as connections to the New Haven Line-Waterbury branch rail in Waterbury and Amtrak service in Hartford. A new 4.5 multi-use trail was built paralleling the CTfastrak bus-only roadway from New Britain to Newington Junction. For information about CTfastrak, visit www.ctfastrak.com, connect via Facebook atwww.facebook.com/ctfastrak or Twitter @ctfastrak. Route timetables are available at www.cttransit.com under the “Schedules/CTfastrak” tab.

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A bus arrives at the Elmwood station. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

A bus arrives at the Elmwood station. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

DOT Commissioner James Redeker (right) spent several hours meeting riders at the Flatbush Avenue station in West Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

DOT Commissioner James Redeker (right) spent several hours meeting riders at the Flatbush Avenue station in West Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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