My adventures with the Connecticut Transit that is the main publiic transportation system in Connecticut. It leaves the rider in suspense, wondering if they will ever get home again.
AN OPEN LETTER TO CONNECTICUT TRANSIT
BY MEL HATHORN
When my car died at 239,000 miles, I decided to try public transportation. So for several weeks, I experimented with public transportation. Living in Cromwell, CT, I used two systems, Connecticut Transit and Middletown Area Transit (MAT). I had wonderful results with MAT. The service to Middletown and the surrounding neighborhoods was excellent! Buses ran almost every 30 – 40 minutes from a shopping plaza that is just a short walk from my home. The bus ride can be a little bouncy, but there you have it. With a bus pass, the rates were reasonable.
I found I could be in Middletown in 20 minutes. I could shop, patronize the many fine restaurants, go to a movie, visit the bookstore at Wesleyan University, sit at a sidewalk café or coffee shop or even attend programs at Wesleyan or the public library. It was wonderful! Who needs a car when all these attractions are so close? The only drawback was no weekend service or service after 6 pm.
I wish I could say the same for Connecticut Transit (CTT). My experience with CTT showed me that your system left a lot to be desired. I learned that planning a trip to the Hartford area required the logistical skills of Agamemnon planning the Trojan War. He only had a thousand ships to worry about; I had to deal with CTT. The problem was not how to get around Hartford; the problem was how to get to Hartford.
An express commuter bus to Hartford stops within a short walk from my home. This bus ends at the Old State House, a transportation hub. Unfortunately, the last express bus leaves for Hartford at 8:07 am and the earliest express bus returns from Hartford at 3:30 pm. There is no middle of day, night, or weekend service.
Was there an alternative for getting into Hartford at these times? There is a number 55 bus leaving Middletown to Hartford on a regular schedule. One of the stops for this bus is Cromwell Center, a three-mile walk from my home. That would not work very well either. Again, no evening or weekend service.
I decided to try a hypothetical experiment. How would I get to a doctor’s appointment from Cromwell to the Hartford Hospital at 1:30 pm on a weekday?
I went to your CTT website and used your trip planner. It said to enter my starting point. I plugged in the Cromwell Stop and Shop on route 372—across from the express stop near my home. The Trip Planner could locate many Stop and Shops; it could not find the Cromwell Stop and Shop. I wonder if the folks at the Cromwell Stop and Shop would be very happy about this. I was unable to locate any bus stop into Hartford other than the express bus that was within a reasonable walking distance from my house.
Then I had a brainstorm! I plugged in the commuter parking lot at the intersection of I91 and route 372 (exit 21). This is 2.5 miles from my home. Now, one would think that a commuter parking lot would have many buses leaving for Hartford. One would think.
The trip planner did locate the commuter parking lot. I plugged in my starting point; commuter parking lot, Cromwell; the destination; Hartford Hospital, Time; 1:30 pm. You gave me a couple of options. I have quoted from your website:
Option 1: “Summary: Your trip has 1 transfer and will take 1 hour[s] and 6 minute[s]. Depart 1:06a from stop Webster square rd & Mill St. on line BK Berlin turnpike inbound. Arrive at stop bank St. & main St. Transfer at stop Bank St. & Main St. to line 41 New Britain inbound. Arrive at final destination stop retreat Ave & Seymour St.
Time: 1:06p Arrival: 2:23p Duration: 76 min. Transfers: 1 Walking Distance: 2.8 miles
This option requires a 3-mile walk from the parking lot to the bus pickup point in addition to the 3-mile walk from home to the commuter parking lot.
Option number 2: “Summary: Your trip has 2 transfers and will take 2 hour[s] and 30 minute[s]. Depart 1:55p from stop Berlin rd & Wal- mart (Cromwell) on line BK Berlin turnpike outbound. Arrive 2:20p at stop Pascoe Pl & price chopper. Transfer 3:14p at stop Pascone Pl & price chopper to line 47 Franklin Avenue outbound. Arrive 3:22p at stop Maselli Rd & Stew Leonards. Transfer 3:44p at stop Maselli rd & stew Leonards to line 47 Franklin Avenue inbound (no cost). Arrive 4:25p at final destination stop Franklin Ave & maple Ave. this trip has 1 no-cost transfer.
Time: 1:55p Arrival: 4:25p Duration: 150 min. Transfers:2 Walking Distance: 0.55 miles
This option takes more time but has a walking distance of a 3-mile walk plus a half-mile walk to the pickup point.
A shorter walk but more time.
Eisenhower had an easier time planning the Normandy Invasion than I have taking a bus into Hartford. I only wish I had Agamemnon’s 1000 ships to deal with.
Needless to say, I didn’t bother searching for a return route.
In fairness, CTT does offer a cab ride to a doctor’s office PROVIDED one has a bus pass and tell you their employer. I guess that leaves the unemployed, the elderly and retired folks out of luck. Dial-a Ride may be available for the elderly but not for the rest of us. Assuming it is still funded.
One can only conclude that you at CTT do not think that Hartford has enough attractions to entice the public to visit during the day. Otherwise, why wouldn’t you have midday, night or weekend bus service? Is the Hartford Chamber of Commerce or the Downtown Council aware of your attitude? So forget about stepping out on the town on a Saturday night. It ain’t gonna happen.
If the Hartford area is to become a world-class region, it must have a world-class transportation system. Every other major city has a safe and reliable transportation system that operates until 11 or 12 at night.. London with its spread-out neighborhoods, Paris, with it sprawling arrondissements, even Washington, New York and Chicago have convenient transportation. Why not Hartford?
Therefore, I have only a couple of recommendations for MAT. Add night and weekend service so the public can sample all the good restaurants and activities in Middletown. It also wouldn’t hurt to put some new shocks on your buses.
For you folks at CTT? The suggestions could take up two times as many pages as this work.
First, add middle of the day service from the surrounding towns.
Second, add night and weekend service.
There’s a new paradigm out there folks! I don’t know if you have people from the 1930s doing your planning but you have to get up to date. You gotta get with the times! Stop using the same assumptions you used back in the 50s. People work at different times! People work on different days! People want freedom to come and go. They don't wanna spend hours in transit to get to a doctor’s appointment.
So forget Sarah Palin’s death panels; we don’t need em. All she needs is a granny with a walker, a three-mile hike, a scorching July day and Connecticut Transit.