New Haveners appeared so pumped to start taking more trains to Hartford and Springfield — that no one showed up to complain about the fares.
At least that could be one takeaway from a public meeting Connecticut Department of Transportation (CT DOT) staffers held Monday night at New Haven’s Hall of Records at 200 Orange St.
The DOT didn’t end up hearing much public feedback. But what it did hear was that New Haven is ready to start taking advantage of increased rail service to the north.
The hearing concerned proposed service schedule and fares for the long-awaited New Haven-Hartford-Springfield (NHHS) Rail Program. Starting this spring, New Haven commuters will pay less for more frequent train access to Hartford and Springfield, thanks to a $1 billion state and federal rail project that has been 15 years in the works.
The CT DOT expects to launch the Hartford Line service in May 2018.
The new train line will increase New Haven’s round trip service to Hartford from six to 17 trains per day. Twelve of those daily trips will also continue on to Springfield.
The DOT’s proposed fare is $8 for a one-way trip from New Haven to Hartford, and $12.75 for a one-way trip to Springfield. Amtrak service along this route currently costs between $12 and $25 for a one-way trip to Hartford, and between $17 and $46 for a one-way trip to Springfield, depending on the time and day.
CT DOT Chief of Public Transportation Richard Andreski led Monday night’s hearing, which was the first of three meetings that the DOT has scheduled to solicit public feedback on the proposed train service and fares. The next hearing will be in Hartford on Tuesday night, and the third hearing will be in Springfield on Wednesday night.
John Bodnar, a 52-year-old New Havener in an electric wheelchair, was the first to take the microphone to share his thoughts, and praise, for the new proposed Hartford Line.
“I would like to thank everyone on the DOT for doing something right,” Bodnar said. “Because, unfortunately, I’m not accustomed to the state using common sense.”
Bodnar spoke about how he recently paid $18.70 for an Amtrak ticket from New Haven. But, upon getting to the station, he found that the train doors were only 30 inches wide: a good four inches less than his wheelchair, and six inches less than that required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
“I hope to god that your doorways will be 34 inches, or maybe even 36,” Bodnar said. “I really look forward to using this train to get to Hartford.”
Andreski later assured Bodnar that all Hartford Line trains and stations would be fully ADA-compliant.
Bodnar praised the DOT for the imminent launch of the service, for their adherence to the ADA, and for setting the proposed train fare at a reasonably low price.
“Why should we have to sit at home and watch TV all day when we could be out enjoying life?” Bodnar said about the deterrent that poorly designed public transit has on people with disabilities. “Everything that changed for the better with the ADA happened because we first made people feel uncomfortable.”
AJ Brundidge, a 21-year-old railroad engineering student at Gateway Community College, also expressed his enthusiasm for the new train service, and said that the DOT should make sure to let college students use the new U Pass on the Hartford Line.
Anthony Ray-Hall, a 28-year-old from Norwalk who spends much time traveling the state by train to visit family and friends, said he hoped that the new train line would further encourage people to leave their cars at home and travel by public transit.
“We need to have a clean, safe environment,” he said. “People need to start taking the train a lot more because I-91 in downtown Hartford gets very congested.”
After the handful of speakers had shared their comments, the DOT staffers spent the vast majority of the meeting browsing the poster boards, explaining the new rail line’s service to a few lingering members of the public, and watching the clock for 8 p.m. to come.
New Haven economic administrator Matt Nemerson stuck around until the end of the meeting, talking with Andreski about how the Hartford Line was a major, long-term state and federal investment that would further enhance New Haven’s status in the region as a major transportation and economic hub.
“These kinds of huge investments are all about thinking about the future,” he said, noting that a thousand new apartments are scheduled to be constructed along the State Street corridor in the coming months. He said that those apartments will be occupied by people who want to live in New Haven and work both in the city and throughout the region.
He said that this rail line will help facilitate easier access not just to Hartford and Springfield, but also to New York and the rest of New England.
“This is about a culture change,” he said.
According to the NHHS website, the state first started researching building a new commuter rail between New Haven and Springfield in 2003. According to a factsheet provided by the DOT on Monday night, the state has invested $564 million in the project, and the federal government has invested $204 million in the project. The state will be applying for another $403 million in federal aid to complete expansions to the rail line that are scheduled to be finished by 2030.
Interested residents can submit comments to the DOT in person at the hearings, or via mail or email by 11:59 p.m. on Nov. 27. At the end of the month, Andreski and his team will conduct a review of the public feedback received, and then submit a final proposal on train schedules and fares to DOT Commissioner James Redeker. Those schedules and fares will go into effect by the Hartford Line’s launch in May 2018.
A dozen DOT staffers filled the Hall of Records’ basement conference room on Monday night with poster boards, fact sheets, brochures and troves of other information about the upcoming rail service.
Andreski began the hearing with a brief overview of the scope and proposed schedules and fares for the new rail line, which he referred to later in the night as the “great missing link” in the state’s public transit system.
Amtrak currently operates six daily round trip train routes between New Haven, Hartford and Springfield. The new Hartford Line will increase that number to 17 round trip trains between New Haven and Hartford, 12 of which will continue on to Springfield.
Weekday service will run from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m., and the trains will operate at speeds of up to 110 mph, putting the New Haven-to-Hartford commute at around 45 minutes and the New Haven-to-Springfield commute at around 85 minutes.
Andreski said that the project includes a number of train station improvements, including new stations in Wallingford, Meriden and Berlin, and new elevated platforms at Hartford Union Station and New Haven State Street station.
Commuters will be able to purchase Metro North and Hartford Line tickets at the same CTrail ticket vending machines at these stations, and CTrail and Amtrak are working on a joint ticketing program that will allow passengers to ride on most Amtrak trains with a CTrail ticket.
The proposed fares, Andreski said, were based on current prices for Shoreline East and non-peak Metro North trains. One-way tickets from New Haven to Hartford will cost $8, and one-way tickets from New Haven to Springfield will cost $12.75.
Senior citizens, persons with disabilities and individuals on Medicare can purchase discounted tickets at 50 percent off. Frequent passengers can also buy ten-trip and monthly passes instead of just the one-way tickets.
I recently took the Amtrak to Springfield. It was a relaxing ride and made me realize that the New Haven to Hartford trip by train is a very viable option. Why fight the traffic on I-91? At 45 minutes to Hartford, and no traffic jams ... it makes little sense to drive. And with the Capitol in close proximity to the train station, we should see more New Haven legislative staffers keeping off the highways.
posted by: mcg2000 on November 14, 2017 4:37pm
While I know that the Greyhound and Peter Pan buses and Amtrak train cost more than $8 to go from New Haven to Hartford, the express bus that CT runs through Peter Pan from New Haven to Hartford and back during morning and evening commuter hours is only $6. So why isn’t this commuter rail $6 for the same trip? Also with Amtrak, Greyhound and Peter Pan, there are opportunities for fare discounts and rewards points that accumulate each trip like Amtrak Guest Rewards.
10:45 pm for the last train out of Hartford to New Haven is too early for a concert at the XL Center or the Comcast Theater, which is even farther from Hartford’s Union Station, as many concerts don’t conclude until 11 pm. It would be nice if there was an 11:30 pm option. It’s still easier for someone living in New Haven to attend a concert in Bridgeport at the Webster Bank Arena and soon the former Bluefish Stadium bc the MetroNorth trains back to New Haven run much later.
posted by: 1644 on November 14, 2017 6:48pm
Dr Jay: The Springfield town meeting that settled on the mono-rail sounds a lot like the New Haven neighborhood meeting where folks decide how to spend their $10K in discretionary funds. :)
posted by: 1644 on November 14, 2017 6:54pm
mcg2000: Trains have a higher socio-economic status than buses, so the fares will be higher. Also, any subsidized commuter buses will likely be stopped when the train starts, just as commuter buses on I-95 stopped when Shoreline East started. Between: I presume Amtrak fares will be the same, just as Amtrak fares are higher to NYC than Metro-North’s are. Amtrak trains are a lot more comfortable than Metro North, although, since I am not a sports fan, I have no reason to go to Penn Station, whereas I do like arriving in the midst of Mid-town. BTW, Amtrak is a great ride to Newark Airport.
posted by: mcg2000 on November 14, 2017 7:27pm
1644, these express buses to Hartford are Peter Pan coach buses not your standard CT Transit buses. If those can be $6, then a comparable in status and comfort commuter rail should be too.
posted by: ILivehere on November 14, 2017 7:49pm
Who goes to Hartford or Springfield? This is a typical CT project where they could have made it really useful by having the train go right into the airport like New Jersey trainsit does but we don’t do anything right here in CT.
posted by: __quinnchionn__ on November 14, 2017 8:39pm
Very good news! It’s about time that Connecticut improved the current state of the infrustructure including the expansion of the train routes.
posted by: 1644 on November 14, 2017 10:11pm
msg: That’s funny. It does not matter how comfortable or even luxurious it is, or whether it is twice as comfortable as the train. It is still a bus, and the train is still a train. Moreover, of course, the more you pay, the more it’s worth. Prices are not connected to cost or quality, but demand based on perceived worth.
posted by: RHeerema on November 14, 2017 11:00pm
So glad for the increased train service! Now, let’s make sure that there’s a reliable, reasonably priced shuttle service from the train directly to Bradley Airport.
posted by: Ryn111 on November 14, 2017 11:08pm
@ILiveHere…... amen! And dont worry - tweed will remain a nonviable option as the state sues to keep it from expanding….
posted by: Thomas Breen on November 14, 2017 11:37pm
Thanks for the comment, Josh! I’ve added links to hi-res copies of the proposed weekday and weekday schedules to the end of the article.
posted by: TheMadcap on November 14, 2017 11:55pm
I do think 1045 for the last train is a bit early as well. If we spent all his time and money making a better train service to connect Hartford to New Haven then the trains should at least accommodate people traveling between the two cities for concerts and other events. Plus it helps keeps drunks off the road.
posted by: wendy1 on November 15, 2017 5:51am
I prefer trains to cars or planes and would love to take one to Springfield some day. In the 50’s I went back and forth between NYC and Springfield on the old New Haven Line. I miss Johnson’s Bookstore, Forbes and Wallace and Steigers, also Forest Park where I skated in the winter and fed ducks in the summer.
Will there be a free shuttle to Bradley from the train?
posted by: mcg2000 on November 15, 2017 8:57am
1644, re trains vs. buses: In Flushing, NY where my parents live, in order to get to Manhattan you can either take a local city bus to the Subway station and then take a Subway to Manhattan or take a city express bus straight to Manhattan. (I’m leaving out an extremely local city bus from Queens to Manhattan.) The express bus is almost triple the price of the local bus to Subway combo because you’re paying for the comfort of a nice coach bus and not having to go up and down Subway stairs, and the convenience of a one ride trip. So train > bus not always true. Plus, do we know if the rail folks actually evacuated what the current subsidized express bus rate is from New Haven to Hartford and made a measured, conscious decision to charge $2 more?
posted by: JCFremont on November 15, 2017 9:54am
I’ve been in Connecticut for thirty years and they’ve been debating this project for at least 28 of those years. It makes better sense that the state’s run this operation, rather than Amtrak. If successful, rather have Connecticut and Massachusetts expand their service. Amtrak, can just run The Vermonter, that’s got to be a money pit. I don’t think it would take to many committee meetings and consulting papers to figure out how to coordinate a shuttle service from the Windsor Lock platform (I won’t dignify it by calling it a Station) over to Bradley Airport. They can use the mini buses currently used for the parking shuttles. Speaking of parking, is there enough parking at stations like Wallingford? I believe the amount of parking at stations along the Shoreline East is a big reason why it has been successful. The bulk of riders in Connecticut do not live in a city and work at another big city, they live in towns and commute to cities. Neither those towns or the state can afford expanding local buses service. The fare is very reasonable. I think it would benefit both the state and Amtrak if Amtrak would accept the CT Transit tickets. Look at the morning southbound, the majority of trains coming into New Haven are Amtrak. Seems like if there was enough parking and a convenient schedule more people in the Wallingford, area might park and ride the train into New Haven. They should include the Shoreline East tickets. Should not include Metro-North. Why? because you pay more for Amtrak because it [should] gets you into New York faster. Buses are less expensive because of one the operating costs, more competition and there’s no guarantee you won’t be stuck in the same traffic your car will be in. You can take a Peter Pan, Greyhound or Mega Bus to Boston or DC and it will cost you a whole lot less than taking Amtrak. While it is getting better going into New York does allow you to really have to worry about coming back the trains run until 1:20 or so, last train out used
posted by: LorcaNotOrca on November 15, 2017 10:18am
I’m always in favor of improved rail service everywhere, so this is great news indeed. It’d probably help convince me to go to Hartford more often, maybe.
However I’d also agree that the last trains are far too early. I live in/work around New Haven, so the only real reason I might go to Hartford is for a concert/event/night out. So 10:45 on a weekday, but more bafflingly, 9:42 (9:42!?) on a weekend makes this pretty much useless to me, so I guess I’ll still be driving.
Definitely valuable for working commuters and the like, which is probably the main point. But if we are investing all this money in it, why not go all the way?? Unless I’m right in assuming that other than for work, no one really needs to go to Hartford…. but it’s a positive step forward, either way.
Also, funny enough, I was at the NHV train station on Sunday morning when Mr. Bodnar was at the desk complaining about his inability to get on his train. I’m amazed those train doors weren’t big enough!
Huge thanks to Tom for getting PDF’s and high-res photos of the proposed schedules. Would be nice if it ran later, but given we have no idea how popular it’ll be, understandable that the service will be somewhat limited to start, especially given the cost.
To those who say, “Who goes to Hartford,” get over yourselves. Maybe you don’t want to see larger concert acts at the XL Center or UConn basketball or have somehow managed to avoid having any friends or family in the Greater Harford area, but I am gonna use the heck out of this, so just calm down.
I’m also sure nobody will ever use it to go to the new Springfield Casino, right?
I am very interested in hearing about shuttle service to Bradley as well, they need to get on that, it would make a HUGE DIFFERENCE.
I’m getting excited!
posted by: Thomas Breen on November 15, 2017 12:18pm
Thanks for the questions about Hartford airport service, Ben and Josh. Here is a response from DOT Chief of Public Transportation Richard Andreski on that issue:
“New Haven customers will be able to ride the train to Hartford Union Station and connect with an airport shuttle just a few steps from the station door. We have purchased new buses with luggage racks, onboard USB charging and distinctive branding. We will either deploy these buses in the current Bradley Flyer service (aka No. 30 bus route) or if we can find funding partners and sponsors, we will launch new express service that operates every 30 minutes from downtown to the airport. The travel time from New Haven to the airport would be comparable to traveling via I-91, and during peak travel hours, the trip by train/bus would be certainly more reliable, if not quicker. We are also making improvements to the bus stops at Hartford Union Station, the CT Convention Center and airport to provide real-time bus, train, and plane information for waiting customers.”
He also says that additional fare for the shuttle bus is TBD, but there will be an integrated ticket purchase option available through all Hartford Line CTrail ticket vending machines.
posted by: ILivehere on November 15, 2017 12:48pm
@ Thomas Breen A shuttle is a nonstarter. First off it’s a 45 minute drive from new haven to the airport and the shuttle alone is a half hour. It could be a full hour if you just miss it. So a 45 minute trip just became what 3 hours to take the train. Also what happens if the shuttle breaks down how will you know before you take the train. Also the added hassle makes it less appealing. On top of all that on the way to the airport what happens on the way Back.
The same thing goes for the casino if the last train is at 11 what’s the point. The only reason to take the train and then a cab is to avoid drinking and driveing. If service stops at 11 it’s useless.
The State should seriously consider the shuttle option as free considering other major airports have free transit options.
This is really great and will make a huge impact in our decision to host another SCF user summit in New Haven.
posted by: LorcaNotOrca on November 15, 2017 1:37pm
@BetweenTwoRocks I’m being a little cheeky with my Hartford comments. I understand. I do think that increased rail service to Hartford and Springfield is a win-win, and if the trains ran later and there was some kind of link to the airport it would be 100%. Though as you mentioned, we’d probably have to see what the ridership is like first.
posted by: anonymous on November 15, 2017 2:01pm
Agree with Ben, a reliable shuttle would allow us to bring large national meetings to New Haven. Assuming that the downtown conference hotel prices are not astronomical relative to other cities. Those are two problems right now.
posted by: RobotShlomo on November 15, 2017 2:51pm
10:45 pm for the last train out of Hartford to New Haven is too early for a concert at the XL Center or the Comcast Theater, which is even farther from Hartford’s Union Station, as many concerts don’t conclude until 11 pm. It would be nice if there was an 11:30 pm option.
Honestly, what the hell good is this? You go to hockey game or a concert at the XL Center, and then have to scramble down to the train station to get the last train out. Why does it seem like they do everything half way? Is there at least a later train on the weekends?
posted by: JCFremont on November 15, 2017 6:54pm
How Dumb is this State? The chief of public transportation thinks that having riders heading for Bradley should get off at Hartford than take a bus? The Windsor Locks platform is less than 10 minutes by car! Have the airport set up a bus like the parking and car rental companies do. The buses will know when the trains arrive and leave, with a bit of forward thinking they will have a very good idea of how many passengers will be getting of at Windsor Locks.
@JC, Thanks for the tip on the Windsor Locks Platform. Just looked at the map. It would be insane not to run a shuttle between the airport and that platform. 4.4 Mi straight shot through Windsor Locks.
posted by: 1644 on November 16, 2017 3:50pm
msg: Do you consider Flushing an upscale neighborhood, whose residents give the bus cachet they way Darien and Westport residents give Metro-North an upscale cachet?
I don’t understand why on Earth someone would take the train to Hartford and then switch to a paid bus for the last 1/3rd of the ride…
The convenience of a shuttle from the Windsor Locks Station would be well worth the cost. One of the the things that makes transportation work well in other regions is integration.
We’re spending money to supplement international flights, build a new railroad, etc, but we’re not connecting the dots to make the transportation system fully viable.
I also agree with the others that there should be a late night service a bit after midnight. I’ve been on the last train out from Manhattan multiple times. It’s not running empty.
posted by: JCFremont on November 20, 2017 9:22am
@LearntoProgram. You are right, this doesn’t need an over complex plan. They don’t need to add anything to CT Transit, they don’t need to add a bus system in Windsor and Windsor Locks, just have a simple shuttle system to meet the trains, add a dollar or two as an option when purchasing the ticket, tip the driver if you have baggage perhaps. If the Xfinity Theater believes the train will bring patrons in safer they could set up a shuttle system as well. The State does not have to run everything. And yes late night trains will make the train a better option, many people go to concerts and athletic events by train because they will get home safer, not just because of alcohol but because they end late.
posted by: steve on November 20, 2017 9:11pm
I doubt the service will be successful, 17 daily trains is way too much although it will offer many empty seats to stretch out in. As far as going from New Haven to Bradley field, parking your car, making six stops to Windsor locks and then dragging your luggage and family on a shuttle bus is going to be a hassle. Starting on November 29, Tweed New Haven airport will offer 3 daily jet flights to Philadelphia international airport and pending a win in the federal appeals court, Tweed will be able to add more service and make the trek to Bradley unnecessary as Tweed is minutes from I-95 and I-91. I predict the Toonerville trolley will be a costly failure and a burden on the already over taxed residents.
@Steve, Do you have a link to the three flights a day info?
posted by: steve on November 20, 2017 11:20pm
@BenBerkowitz aa.com I have flown through the Philadelphia airport for years and have used one stop connections to many cities across the country and Europe. Flying out of Tweed New Haven airport is stress free compared to other larger airports.
Flights will run at the same times as before—but hoping that they’ll expand and run flights to destinations besides Philly. Still the jets are an improvement over the Dash-8 props.
posted by: JCFremont on November 21, 2017 10:07am
Adding a third connection to Tweed is just restoring the one that ran until I think last spring. Yes Steve when the Tweed - Philadelphia connection works it is stress free but those flights are often the first delayed and most people traveling for business travel early and don’t want to risk missing a connection or being taken out of the air in a cold weather city during snow and rain season. With Jets coming in there is no reason they can not add service to DC and Chicago. What I don’t understand is that this train success will be by travel between New Haven and Hartford. If you want to get cars off the road we need people who live in suburbs and work in cities, that is where the majority of Metro-North’s riders come from. Too many times I have had to change flight from Tweed to Bradley or LGA because of cancellations. One time flight in Philly was delayed and chance of getting on last flight out was slim. Since we where all going to New Haven we rented a car. Another time plane was delayed out of New Haven and missed the connection at Philly that plane originated out of Hartford.
Thanks @LearnToProgram. @Steve, me too and we encourage our clients and employees to do the same when the price is right. It is more often than not these days. I was just curious about the third flight that starts on Nov29. It sounded like you were saying there was an early flight. Maybe there are already three andnive only taken the two earlier flights.
@jcfremont @ben There are two things to keep in mind with the CRJ-200’s replacing the Dash-8’s at Tweed. 1) The CRJ’s will have a much high dispatch reliability than the Dash-8’s. Less mechanical problems. Also, they will be able to fly in more marginal weather than the Dash-8’s. These are differences at the margins, so, we’re talking about likely a 1-3% improvement over a year—but if it’s your flight that’s not cancelled, it’s a difference.
2) The CRJ’s will not be able to fly anywhere near maximum takeoff weight due to the length of the runways at Tweed. There isn’t enough safety margin for them to fly with full passengers and fuel and go places much more distant than Philly…
If you really want to see Tweed become a serious option support runway expansion.
I should note that I am both a pilot and commercial traveler…
posted by: 1644 on November 21, 2017 2:06pm
Learn: Air Wisconsin used to fly jets to Chicago, before runway was modified with the safety extensions. What was up with that? You are right about reliability being a problem. Tweed is super convenient for me. I could walk there if I had to. Yet, way too many flights are cancelled due to weather, etc. Plus, each leg of a flight adds not only time, but panother chance for breakdown/crew times outs, etc. That’s a big reason I try for non-stops. Plus, while PHA has a few flights to Europe, it doesn’t have the connections the city airports have. I can take a car to JFK or Newark with one seat from my house to the terminal, then a direct flight almost anywhere except Oz and beyond. although that may be changing. Amtrak to Newark is also nice, and cheaper than car, especially for one.
@1644 In the late eighties and early 90’s Air Wisconsin (flying for United) and United itself both has service to Chicago. Air Wisconsin flew the BAE-146—which are mostly retired now—which was a STOL (short takeoff or landing) specialist. United flew a 737 variant (which is the actual reason the jet bridge was built). The 737 also had a capacity problem due to the runway length but that service was part of bringing the world Special Olympics to New Haven (1992?).
I’m not saying this move to small jets solves problems—but it does make things better.
I also like the Amtrak to Newark option, but, I don’t like United.
I have had one flight out cancelled from Tweed. Resolved easily by shipping us to Hartford free.
I had one flight rerouted to Westchester resolved easily by a free shuttle courtesy of USAir at the time.
Personal opinion: The ease of security and proximity to home substantially trump a small layover when traffic and risk of injury on 95 or 91 is in full lay.
For bonus points: I brought the sole key to our car to the airport once by accident. The TSA Officer offered to hold the key for my wife to pick up at anypoint throughout the day. Try that at Bradley or JFK.
posted by: steve on November 21, 2017 4:10pm
The BAE-146’s have been gone for years, they had many mechanical delays and cancellations. Tweed’s problem has been that while 737’s and other jets can land and take off at Tweed, there times when flights cannot depart with full or near full passenger loads and airlines will not commit to such an airport. For airlines to be profitable today, load factors of 80% and higher are needed. The flights from New Haven to Philadelphia are a little over 200 miles in length and the plane has a range of about 1200 miles so those flights should work with well. When the overruns are paved, that problem will vanish and I expect American Airlines then to add flights to Charlotte and Allegiant airlines which has for some time now has expressed an eagerness in starting non-stop flights to Florida would be added. Delta and United will be watching American’s flights as far as passenger numbers. With the present runway, United could offer flights to Dulles airport in the DC area. Flights to Reagan National airport are very hard to obtain since the airport is slot controlled meaning only a limited number of flights are allowed daily and airlines tend to hold on to these those slots. Philadelphia airport has more than just a few flights to Europe, London,Paris,Rome,Munich,Frankfurt,Dublin,Madrid,Barcelona,Lisbon,Athens,Venice,Brussels,and Amsterdam. Some are seasonal but most are year round. The American Airlines jet flights starting on 11-29-207 show very good passenger loads with some flights booked near the 50 seat capacity. I would imagine once word gets around, passenger numbers will go quite high and perhaps a forth flight will be added.
posted by: John Bodnar on November 23, 2017 12:59pm
Learn to Program You are correct,Tweed needs longer runways. As a former employee of Delta(Comair) I heard more than one pilot voice concern over this.