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$950K Grant Would Boost Buses

by Liana Teixeira | Jul 14, 2014 2:41 pm

(18) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: Transportation

Liana Teixeira photo Aaron Freeman said he lugs his Stop & Shop grocery bags across four busy Whalley Avenue traffic lanes to wait at a bus stop for a ride that may never show up. New money from the feds may throw him a transit lifeline.

Freeman (pictured) shared his plight at a public meeting at Mauro-Sheridan Magnet School Sunday afternoon, where Director of Transportation, Traffic and Parking Douglas Hausladen with a team from CDM Smith, a consulting firm, presented the city’s latest efforts in improving public transit.

Top on the list: a new $760,000 Federal Transit Administration grant for a transportation alternatives analysis, which may help relieve Freeman’s travel woes,and those of many other commuters.

The federal government approved the city’s request for transit study funding in 2011. To secure the funding, the Board of Alders must also approve the request before a September deadline. Of the $950,000 allocated toward the project, $760,000 is provided by the federal government and $100,000 from the Connecticut Department of Transportation. The remaining $90,000 would come from the city, as bonded funding.

“We have many transit options in New Haven,” said Corinne Donahue, the senior transit planner for CDM Smith. Ideas include identifying areas where faster transit is needed, and connecting people to essential locations for jobs, shopping, medical appointments and schools.

In a 2005 regional transit study, the city indicated the bus routes on Whalley, Dixwell, Grand, Congress and Campbell Avenues as top priority for transit speed and efficiency. Almost 10 years later, Donahue said, these routes must be looked at again to see if they are still a priority or if new ones have emerged.

Also a priority: making sure the bus lines with the most ridership provide access to bikers and bike paths.

Another goal, Donahue said, is to make public transportation options more appealing not only to those who already use them, but also to those who don’t.

The meeting was the second in a series of four public hearings to gather feedback from transit users. Residents were not shy in sharing their struggles with the current bus system.

The Sunday buses “show up whenever they feel like or sometimes not at all,” said Shelagh Brennan of Fountain Street. She said she tries not to take the bus on Sundays anymore, and takes to walking or riding her bike instead.

Alderman Richard Furlow’s experiences have not been any better. During rush hour on workday mornings, he said, the buses are often late. Whenever he calls CT Transit for answers, Furlow said, they also have no idea where the bus is. He said he runs to the next stop on the route in hopes of catching it.

The public transit downtown needs to be “more user friendly,” said Furlow.

Hausladen said the study’s tentative start date would be winter 2015. The study could last anywhere from 12 to 18 months.

“This [study] is a perfect opportunity,” said Hausladen. It coincides with the completion of a high-speed express rail from Hartford to New Haven in late 2016, which will provide even more transportation options for commuters. Reworking the city’s transit strategy now, he said, will help bring in new technology and data-gathering previously unavailable.

Several upgrades that are being considered include the replacement of bus passes with refillable metro cards.

By the end of 2015, plans call for all New Haven public buses to have global positioning systems (GPS). Riders could check smartphone apps and find out when the next bus is coming or if it’s delayed, avoid waiting in 20-degree weather for a late bus. Those without smartphones could still call CT Transit to find out the bus schedule, as employees there would have access to the same GPS information.

At the end of the day, Hausladen said, the study could reveal many unique options for the city, such as upgrading bus shelters to include advertisements and real-time bus schedule kiosks, better lighting, internet hotspots and nearby public restrooms.

The remaining public hearings are scheduled for Thursday, July 17, at 6 p.m. at the Fair Haven Library and Saturday, July 19, at 2 p.m. at Career High School.

If the study is approved, four additional public meetings would be scheduled to gather additional comments and feedback.

In the meantime, a survey is available to those who attend the public meetings and online here. So far, 175 residents have responded to the online survey.

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posted by: HewNaven on July 14, 2014  4:02pm

Not that I oppose public participation of this kind, but why can’t CTTransit analyze their own data to figure out where service improvements are needed? The need for public input regarding the priority of routes is absurd. Can’t someone who is competent manage this simple bus system without asking for help? They could start by riding the buses once a day.

posted by: Pat from Westville on July 14, 2014  7:09pm

The Sunday buses “show up whenever they feel like or sometimes not at all,” said Shelagh Brennan of Fountain Street. She said she tries not to take the bus on Sundays anymore, and takes to walking or riding her bike instead.

I must respectfully disagree with Ms. Brennan’s description of Sunday bus service on Fountain Street. That is not my experience over the last 7 years that I’ve been taking the bus, on Sundays as well as every other day of the week. I think that Ms. Brennan’s problem with Sunday buses on Fountain Street is perhaps because she doesn’t know that the Sunday route is not like the route weekdays and Saturdays.

Sundays there is not a full Q-Edgewood Avenue schedule; instead, there is a combination route picking up parts of 3 smaller routes, the F, the Q and the Z, or the FQZ. It leaves downtown hourly starting at 7:30AM, going up Chapel Street [parts of all 3] to Boulevard, takes Boulevard to Edgewood [picking up part of the Q], Edgewood to Alden to Fountain to Ramsdell to Whalley to the Amity Rd. Stop and Shop. From there it goes back down Whalley but does not turn back on Ramsdell, Rather, it turns left on East Ramsdell to Valley Street to pick up part of the Z route. Taking Valley to Blake, it turns right on Blake, left on Whalley, right on Central Ave, right on Fountain to Alden back on the Q route. Taking Alden to Edgewood, it turns right on Boulevard over to pick up part of the F route, Derby Avenue to George to York to Elm St and back downtown.

If Ms. Brennan waits on the even numbered side of Fountain, that would account for her impression that the buses come when they feel like it or not at all. My experience is that the Sunday buses do run mostly on schedule. To go downtown she needs either to wait on the odd-numbered side of Fountain & take the bus to Stop & Shop, taking the circle route downtown, or wait on Alden at Fountain where the bus picks up the Q route again.

posted by: myself on July 14, 2014  9:45pm

Why can’t this highspeed rail to hartford continue on to Bradley Airport; then it would realy be useful;
  Or are we going to continue to hope for our own airport?

posted by: UrbanPlanner on July 14, 2014  10:01pm

I will save you a million bucks, the answer is that New Haven must build a regional bus station!

“...upgrading bus shelters to include advertisements and real-time bus schedule kiosks, better lighting, internet hotspots and nearby public restrooms.”

Wow, classic case of not being able to see the forest for the trees. Wouldn’t a bus station solve those problems and more?

Better, wouldn’t a bus station alleviate the bus-related traffic nightmare at the corner of Temple St and Chapel St? Why do we have all the buses converge at the central green anyways?

How about we build a bus station over the underutilized State Street Train Station and make it a combination train/bus station. Wouldn’t this solve all of these problems and more? Naysayers will cite the cost of such a project being too high—but the reality is that even if it cost 40 million dollars, that is still only 4% the cost of the I91-I95 project and would more directly improve the lives of New Haven residents. If Boston can complete the Big Dig, I think New Haven can people the riders of the bus system their own station.

posted by: Threefifths on July 14, 2014  10:22pm

How about doing what they do in New York.

New York’s Shadow Transit
Text and map by Aaron Reiss Videos by Nate Lavey and Aaron Reiss

New York’s unofficial shuttles, called “dollar vans” in some neighborhoods, make up a thriving transportation
system that operates where the subway and buses don’t. This interactive project, with videos, maps out that system.


http://www.newyorker.com/sandbox/projects/nyc-dollar-vans/

posted by: robn on July 15, 2014  7:05am

The hub and spoke system is anachronistic and inefficient. Introduce one or two outer loops for cross connection and you’ll improve the system tremendously.

posted by: robn on July 15, 2014  10:52am

PS
If you didn’t get my gist; DECENTRALIZATION is the key, not centralization. We need a web, not a hub and spoke. A regional bus station would be a huge waste of money and an instant relic.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on July 15, 2014  12:55pm

I second robn’s comment. It’s not 1900 or 1920 anymore - New Haven isn’t the sole center in the region. There are multiple centers spread out across the region and connecting these with one another and incentivizing pedestrian/transit-oriented development at these centers is the way to go.

posted by: RhyminTyman on July 15, 2014  4:17pm

A regional bus station is unneeded. The Green has pretty all the functionality you gain by having a hub. It also does help me waiting for my bus on East Grand and Summit. GPS system system would be a huge benefit. You wouldn’t have to wait for a bus. You pull out your phone and you know where the bus is.

posted by: RhyminTyman on July 15, 2014  4:19pm

3/5 this is increditably unsafe and I don’t mean Über and Lyft unsafe. 15 passenger vans flip over like crazy. You really feel safe hopping in a van with an inexperience driver that could flip over at any turn? I don’t.

posted by: nutmeg on July 15, 2014  10:15pm

Pat from Westville’s comments demonstrate the flaws with the service currently offered by CTTransit.  You shouldn’t need four paragraphs to explain a bus route.  In fact, a lot of the New Haven divisions routes have so many part time diversions, exceptions, and special notes, that it’s maddening for regular transit user, let alone a lay person.  Is the bus you’re riding on a B1, BZ, or B1Z?  or is it a B3Z?  and which B3Z? (there are two.)  Not to mention the buses that take thirty minutes to go two miles across town because they sit on the green for an inordinate amount of time waiting for a few transfers. 

FYI, CTTransit doesn’t really do much of their own planning.  They’re a contractor (subsidiary of UK’s FirstGroup) who operates the buses and who takes their orders from Connecticut DOT.

Part of the solution here is to simplify the system and focus service where’s it’s in demand, not simply coloring in the map.  Another solution might be to emulate bus rapid transit projects in New Haven’s peer cities (Albany, NY, Fort Collins, CO, and Eugene, OR come to mind).

posted by: Pat from Westville on July 16, 2014  8:11am

I agree, Nutmeg, that the route of the Sunday FQZ bus is baroque beyond belief—when I first started riding it, I kept asking myself where is this bus taking me! I don’t know how long this route has been in existence, at least 7 years, undoubtedly many more. I question the implicit assumption that the 3 separate routes—the F, the Q and the Z—have too small a ridership to justify running a full route for each on Sunday. And the underlying assumption that Sunday ridership, on all but the D-Dixwell/Grand Ave, merits only hourly service.

My question is when were these assumptions first made, and why are they apparently carved in stone. Maybe it’s time for the DOT et. al. to revisit these assumptions. It seems that taking the better part of an hour to get downtown and a convoluted route and only hourly service almost guarantees low ridership.

As for the hub and spoke system, I find it very useful for many of my transit needs. But the addition of some routes connecting the spokes without involving downtown is absolutely necessary.

Shall I tell you about how long it takes me to go to Trader Joe’s (a 20 minute trip when I had a car) on the Post Road in Orange? 15 minutes on the Q to downtown, 10 or so minute wait for the O2 Post Road bus, 40 minutes to the Post Mall in Milford, stay on the bus outbound from the Mall for another 5 or 20 minutes to Trader Joe’s. Yes, as I always have to explain to the bus driver, the bus outbound from downtown does pass Trader Joe’s en route to the Mall, but it’s on the other side of the Post Road which is not meant for pedestrians to try crossing. That’s even more ludicrous to my mind than the Sunday FQZ!!

posted by: HewNaven on July 16, 2014  11:12am

PatFromWestville,

All of those questions could be answered if CTTransit regularly performed some very BASIC data analysis. They could tell which routes were the most traveled, which buses were most crowded, etc. Why are they being so dumb about this? I’m not saying it’s all in the fare/ridership data, but that would save us a lot of time.

posted by: Threefifths on July 16, 2014  8:12pm

posted by: RhyminTyman on July 15, 2014 4:19pm

3/5 this is increditably unsafe and I don’t mean Über and Lyft unsafe. 15 passenger vans flip over like crazy. You really feel safe hopping in a van with an inexperience driver that could flip over at any turn? I don’t.


Me and you talk about this before. Since 1994, the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission has been issuing permits to dollar vans. There are 481 licensed dollar vans in the city, although there are many, many more estimated to be operating.How many buses going to the casino have flip over?Also Dollar vans are now being used across the country.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dollar_van

posted by: TheMadcap on July 16, 2014  8:15pm

@HewNaven
This info exists. In fact info for everything transit related exists in the following report from bus ridership(the B/D lines carry 45% of volume on CT transit in the NH area) to percent of people in each neighborhood who bike/walk to work, to traffic numbers at certain areas, pedestrian/bike numbers, Tweed/Union station embarkments, ect.

http://www.cityofnewhaven.com/  cityplan/pdfs/Draft Databook Narrative/Chapter VI.pdf
(take away the space in it, the comment section was forbidding me from submitting it for some reason)

Also agree with robyn.

posted by: TheMadcap on July 16, 2014  8:34pm

@myself

It’d make more sense from a cost/infrastructure perspective to just have a shuttle going from the closest rail station to the airport vs building a branch line right to the airport.

posted by: DingDong on July 17, 2014  8:14am

I really like Urbanplanner’s idea of building some kind of bus station right by State Street Station.  Combine rail and bus in one (still central) location, give transit riders a nice location to wait, and let the Green be green!

posted by: Aaron Freeman on July 22, 2014  2:20pm

My concern was more with the service that that stop enjoys, rather than the number of lanes of traffic.
We discussed the possibility of WiFi, but I wonder at the price of clocks.
NewHaven makes a good point about having someone ride the bus each day; MBTA was run much better when the Governor of Massachusetts commuted that way.

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