The city’s holding off until the end of the year with a plan to remove six State Street bus stop so neighbors have time to weigh in.
City Transportation, Traffic & Parking Director Doug Hausladen delivered that message to East Rock residents on Monday night during this month’s meeting of the East Rock Community Management Team (ERCMT) at the mActivity gym on Nicoll Street.
Forty neighbors filled the room to hear Hausladen out as he apologized for not have engaged earlier in a clear public discussion about the planned removals of three inbound and three outbound Q bus stops on State Street between Bradley and Mechanic Streets. The city’s Traffic Authority recently gave him permission to remove those stops.
Hausladen said that his department has identified three key challenges related to transit and parking in the Upper State Street area: the need for more on-street parking for merchants and their customers, the need for on-street parking for neighborhood residents, and the need for better public transit infrastructure for residents, merchants, and visitors alike.
“We had looked as a department at the district from Trumbull to Mechanic, and there were roughly six stops in each direction with spacing of roughly .1 or .11 miles apart,” Hausladen said. “That’s one-tenth of a mile or one-ninth of a mile apart.”
He said that a recent statewide bus study conducted by the South Central Regional Council on Government (SCRCOG) recommended that urban bus stops be spaced at a quarter of a mile apart so as to reduce the number of times the vehicle has to stop, and thereby increase efficiencies and improve the likelihood of on-time performance.
However, that wider spacing of bus stops would also mean longer walking distances for bus riders. “Obviously, there’s a balance between these efficiencies and customer service,” Hausladen said.
Over the winter, Hausladen and his department ran a two-month pilot in which they temporarily removed six State Street Q bus stops (three inbound, three outbound) that, according to automated passenger count data provided by CT Transit, were relatively underused.
These stops, which were the same that the Transit Authority voted earlier this month to permanently remove, are located at Eld Street, Pearl Street, and Bishop Street. That left six remaining Q bus stops on that stretch of State Street at Bradley Street, Humphrey Street, and Mechanic Street.
Hausladen said that he was encouraged to move ahead with the permanent removal of those stops because he got zero negative responses during the two-month winter pilot. In fact, he got no responses at all.
“I’m curious what the feedback loop is to you,” said ERCMT chair David Budries. “How do people communicate with you?”
“Through the normal channels of phone calls, emails,” Hausladen replied.
“And how do they get that information?” Budries asked. “Through the website? Which really sucks? Even if you try to look for this meeting, you still get information that’s seven years old. I find it very convoluted. How do [merchants, residents, and concerned bus riders] find who you are and how to funnel their information appropriately?”
Hausladen admitted that figuring out the best way to contact the city’s transit department is still unduly difficult for most residents. He said that the best ways for people who do not already have his cell phone number to reach him are by asking their alders, by going to the city website, or by calling the mayor’s office directly and then getting transferred.
He noted that another challenge to managing public feedback about public transit is that the state runs the bus system. The city is responsible only for putting up bus signs and, when it has the money, bus shelters. According to Hausladen, the city currently has around 4,000 bus stops and 420 bus shelters.
Nevertheless, Hausladen said, he had failed to properly communicate with East Rock residents about the city’s plans for these State Street bus stops. The phone calls and comments that he has received since the New Haven Independent published this article earlier this month led him to reengage with the management team on this issue, and to hold off on implementing the removal of these six bus stops until at least the end of the calendar year. He said that, if the community ultimately decides that it wanted to keep the stops, he will go back to the traffic authority and ask them to put the necessary regulations back in.
“I’m happy to do that in order to have an honest conversation about where we want to go,” he told the group.
Also at Monday’s meeting, Hausladen said at the meeting that he has been working closely on neighborhood parking issues with the Upper State Street Merchants Association, led by the Bradley Street Bicycle Co-op’s John Martin, and that they were focusing on improving two nearby parking lots.
According to Hausladen and Martin, the parking lot at State and Mechanic Streets is scheduled to receive $53,000 worth of improvements this calendar year, which will include repaving, restriping, and the addition of bike racks and an automated paystation. Like the updgraded Westville-Whalley-Blake lot, the State-Mechanic lot will cost $1 per hour to park in. Hausladen and Martin said that they are hoping to achieve similar improvements to the State-Pulaski lot, which is at State and Bradley Street, sometime next year.