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You Mean You Don’t Have Great Bus Service?

by Allan Appel | Jan 26, 2014 10:41 am

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

Posted to: Transportation

Allan Appel Photo It was news to him. But he said he’d take a look.

That was the reaction of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to calls from the Harp administration’s new transit chief for the state to turbo-charge its lumbering CT Transit bus service.

After an unrelated New Haven news conference Thursday on school safety, Malloy was asked to respond to two ideas recently put forward by the new city transit chief, Doug Hausladen, who officially starts his new job on Feb. 1.

When Hausladen was officialy named to the post on Monday, he made a pitch to the state to put GPS devices on all buses, then create an app for riders to keep track of where they are—the way Yale does with its shuttle.

“I’d have no reason not to support it,” said the governor.

He said GPS technology is already being incorporated in the planning for $567 million New Britain-Hartford Busway.

Hausladen also bemoaned the sketchy bus service in New Haven, which gradually slows down to nearly non-existent beginning part-way through evening rush hour into the night. He called for more evening bus runs. Workers who leave the job after 5:30 or 6, or people who dine out or go to night-time events in the city, have sparse service to rely on.

“I am not familiar with New Haven bus routes,” Malloy responded when asked about that request. “Don’t know enough detail. As a mayor [in Stamford] I appreciate how important buses are. I’ll certainly have the commissioner look into it.”

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posted by: elmcityresident on January 24, 2014  5:07pm

THEY ALSO NEED TO GPS THAT DARN DATTCO SCHOOL BUS SERVICE AND WHATEVER ELSE BUS SERVICES CAUSE IT SUCKS..THERE ALWAYS LATE AND ON TOP OF THAT WHEN YOU CALL TRANSPORTATION THE LINE RINGS “FOREVER” AND “EVER” AND “EVER” AND “EVER” MY LAWD!!!!!

posted by: Threefifths on January 24, 2014  5:26pm

To hell with GPS.You need a 24hr Transit System.
It would promote economic growth.A 24hr Transit System would help workers in healthcare,public safety,hospitality, and other industries who don’t work weekday hours.

posted by: TheMadcap on January 24, 2014  5:45pm

I’d be more convinced he’d look into the bus service if his original proposed budget last year didn’t cut subsidies for public transport while trying to get rid of the car tax.

posted by: Shaggybob on January 24, 2014  6:33pm

Wow! I’m starting to almost have hope that the Harp administration is covering the issues that make New Haven difficult to live in.
During the day service is fairly good and reliable- most buses run frequently enough.
Malloy should wait for any bus that is supposed to show up after 6pm and never does or on Sundays when the last bus doesn’t come and you get “stuck” downtown.
The bus schedule needs more checks and balances on all the routes.

posted by: Billy on January 24, 2014  7:05pm

Good points, Doug. You’re filling big shoes very well!

I agree that bus hours need to be expanded well beyond the hours that are convenient for people working 9:00 to 5:00 Monday-Friday type jobs. Try getting to or from work (or anywhere else for that matter) during other times. Ugh!

Also, I use a bus finder app when visiting family in Boston. It prevents me from missing busses, waiting forever in foul weather, and generally being less captive to the imperfections of the bus system. I’m all for it. Sounds like Malloy is too…hold him to it!

posted by: HewNaven on January 25, 2014  11:48am

GPS is a neat way to attract millennials and yuppies to what might be a novel experience riding the bus. But, there are lots of us already using the bus system who desire basic improvements. Two things that would really help:

1. Buses should be on time. I’ve never ridden buses in other cities, but it seems like the New Haven system is always off, usually ~5-10 minutes. Is that normal for a bus system? If so, it’s unfortunate. It discourages riders. Maybe there’s a way to fix that in New Haven.

2. More buses. Take a ride on the B bus (Whalley Ave.), or the D bus (Grand/Dixwell) between 8-11AM or 3-6PM. Chances are you’re going to be standing up in a bus that is packed to capacity, and no one on that bus is going to be happy. These ‘high-use’ routes deserve the most attention. These passengers spend more than anyone else on CTTransit, they should be treated like valuable, long-term customers. (Many of them will use the bus for their entire lives, with no other means of transportation). You can’t have a bus skipping stops on Grand Avenue as it nears downtown because it can’t fit any more passengers. They need more buses on these routes running during peak hours. No one should have to wait more than 10 minutes at a bus stop. GPS might cut down on the wait time by allowing people to leave work/home when the bus is nearer to their departure point, but it will not eliminate crowded buses. If anything, it will attract more riders and create more crowding.

posted by: Janetruth on January 25, 2014  12:41pm

Threefifths said it so powerfully I’m just going to quote ‘To hell with GPS. You need a 24hr Transit System. It would promote economic growth.A 24hr Transit System would help workers in healthcare,public safety,hospitality, and other industries who don’t work weekday hours.” My friend who has no car and rides the bus at least 4 times daily said,“I’d rather have the money spent on helping children”  I just changed my vote from yes to no

posted by: BenBerkowitz on January 26, 2014  12:41pm

HewNaven,

Speaking for the ‘Millenial Yuppie’ bus riders who do not think of it as a novelty in either definition of the word, I’d offer GPS as the key to both of your stated problems. I also agree that the resolution of both frequency and dependability is the desired outcome.

GPS creates predictability which is the key to tipping the scale in favor or riding a bus in lieu of taking a car for those who can afford it. Cost and being able to relax already weigh in favor of the bus.  If more people take the bus there will be enough demand for more buses.

2) GPS creates accountability. If CT Transit knows that their drivers are arriving 10-15 minutes late every morning the data should be more than enough to take corrective action. (BTW, I take the bus in many other cities and 5 minutes late is not unusual. I think we can do better as there are no other public alternatives.)

How awesome would it be if you were not first inclined to make ageist and classist statements about your fellow bus riders to kick off a conversation about increasing ridership ?

The societal benefit of diverse public transportation, while not the intended outcome here, may be the best side effect of increased ridership.

posted by: HewNaven on January 26, 2014  4:27pm

Ben,

You might have missed my point. I’ve taken the Q bus up State Street in your neighborhood. Yes, you are “able to relax” on that route. And that’s what riding the bus should be like. But, that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m referring to high-use routes like B (Whalley), D (Grand/Dixwell), and others like them. There is already “enough demand for more buses” on these routes. Like I said, take a trip during weekday peak-hours and tell me what you think.

As far as ageism and classism: Who is speaking up for the transportation needs of seniors, teenagers, and the working poor?? They use the bus system more than ANYONE and don’t have the luxury of choosing between driving or taking the bus. So I don’t feel sorry for young people who are otherwise capable of riding but require incentives to do so.

Of course, I agree that GPS would improve bus service. But, the people who deserve improvement are already riding buses and have been putting up with poor service for years. Let’s prioritize improving their service. Then we can roll out the marketing campaign aimed at young professionals.

posted by: BenBerkowitz on January 27, 2014  1:24pm

Hew Naven,

Q Bus was 8 minutes late leaving Chapel and Alden this AM. It was standing room only most of the ride from Westville to Downtown. Hopefully GPS will help tip capacity for adding more frequent buses as well as benefit all bus riders who will be able to standout in the cold less if SMS, smartphone, public dashboard displays and other interfaces are enabled.

Imagine if every public housing complex, shelter and senior center had real-time bus tracking displays the way that Yale does? Being able to tell work that you would be late in advance or stay out of the cold a few minutes longer would be substantial life improvements for anyone.

Technology that may be viewed as novel for the wealthy many times proves mission critical for the poor.  I believe that bus-tracking in NHV will exemplify this nicely.

posted by: Pat from Westville on January 27, 2014  5:28pm

@ BenBerkowitz: I’m confused. Alden and Chapel? The Q bus travels Alden Ave between Fountain St and Edgewood Ave going both to and from downtown.

posted by: Pat from Westville on January 27, 2014  6:11pm

@HewNaven:

First of all, thank you for speaking up on behalf of the transportation needs of seniors, teenagers, and the working poor, those of us who already depend on the buses to get us to all (or most all) places that car owners use their cars to access. I am in the first and third groups mentioned, and I’ve been taking the bus now for more than 6 years.

I don’t travel much at peak rush hour time so I can’t speak much on the B-Whalley Ave & D-Dixwell/Grand Ave buses. I do know that the D buses are the busiest New Haven route, every 10 minutes all day long weekdays (as long as that day is), and it always seems that 2 or 3 D’s go by while I’m waiting downtown for the Q bus home. I also understood that the new extra-long (60 ft instead of 40) “bendy” buses were meant primarily for those well traveled routes, but again I don’t think I’ve ever seen one more than half full. Maybe CT Transit’s scheduling needs improvement, as well as on time performance.

But no one yet has mentioned what I would call the elephant in the living room in terms of improving bus service for passengers, so let me do that. SNOW. That plowing the streets makes it possible for both buses and passenger cars to navigate the streets means nothing if passengers’ access to the buses is obstructed by curbside ramparts of snow at the bus stops. Last February after the monster 34” Storm Nemo I remember that well into the 2nd week afterwards the only way I could get onto the B-Whalley Ave bus at Whalley & Ellesworth was to walk down the driveway between 419 Whalley where I work & D’Amato’s Seafood and wait IN the street. Though the sidewalk was (mostly) clear of snow, the space between the sidewalk and the curb was full of snow, even at the crosswalks.

I realize that this is a huge problem to solve, involving more than CT Transit. But all the hi tech improvements will mean nothing if passengers have to climb over or through or around giant mounds of snow to get anywhere near the bus.

posted by: BenBerkowitz on January 27, 2014  10:32pm

@Pat,
Alden and Edgewood. Apologies. Brain fart.

posted by: HewNaven on January 28, 2014  12:40pm

Pat,

Great point about the snow. I forgot, that’s another persistent problem which WILL NOT be corrected by GPS. I agree with Ben that we may see a residual effect of increased ridership leading to improvements, but I’d much rather see these problems addressed directly by politicians like Malloy and Harp, and not hope for that hypothetical scenario.

Let’s add ‘snow’ to our list:

1. Overcrowded
2. Never on-time
3. Bus stops not cleared of snow
4. Fare is too high
5. Not enough evening routes/overnight service
6. Not enough weekend service
7. Not enough transfer points

posted by: DingDong on January 28, 2014  10:20pm

1. Bridgeport has GPS on their buses (on most routes).

2. Can someone explain to me why Bridgeport buses are run by the Greater Bridgeport Transit Authority, while most other cities in Connecticut have buses run by CT Transit?

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