Car-Less In Connecticut

With an unexpected day off, I decided to finally run an errand at Best Buy in Orange. I don’t have a car—so you can imagine why I’d put it off.

I knew from the many times I had Google-mapped the bus route—and the one ridiculous time I attempted walking there, reached the West Haven city limits, and had to call an Uber—that getting to this store was going to be a pain in the tuchus.

The Best Buy travel experience was my latest personal reminder of how, if you don’t own a car, Connecticut’s transportation system makes it as hard as possible for you to get around. The governor claims his 30-year $100 billion plan to remake Connecticut highways for drivers will also improve the transit system for the rest of us. Less than a year of navigating the state on foot and on two wheels has shown me that there’s a lot of work to be done—to improve simple bus commutes to stores or to work, to better connect city residents to airports, to make public transit more efficient for the car-less like me.

Some simple fixes don’t need a three-decade, 12-figure plan.

Not “Zip”-py

I live in Westville. Traveling round trip between the bus stop in front of my house and Orange involves four bus rides.

Mind you, my destination in Orange lies on a major artery—Boston Post Road— less than five miles from where I live.

I would have biked the route, but it was a rainy day and I didn’t want to put the trip off any longer. The lack of sidewalks and major traffic along the road takes walking out of the equation, even on a nice day.

I have a Zipcar membership. But if you can imagine something more inconvenient than the bus, you would have the sum total of my experiences with Zipcar.

Compared to the $1.50 bus fare, renting a Zipcar is pretty expensive at between $7.50-$9.50 per hour. Plus, the state treats renting a Zipcar the same as renting any other car for leisure, tacking on a 3 percent rental surcharge, a .28 percent sales tax on the rental surcharge, a $1 a day tourism account surcharge and a 9.35 percent vehicle rental tax. I’m not touring anything. I’m not renting this car for a joyride. These surcharges are not cool, Connecticut. Not cool at all. The state clearly doesn’t want people to rent cars.

Second, the per-hour fee for renting a Zipcar includes picking up the car and returning it to where you borrowed it, which means returning it to a Yale or Southern Connecticut University-centric location. I understand the rationale for parking a Zipcar on a college campus. I really do. What’s not to love with all that surface area parking and a built-in client base? But, with the exception of a lot at Union Station, what about the rest of us?

Technically, the SCSU Zipcar location is “near” Westville—if you call 1.2 miles “near.” In most instances, I actually do call that close. But getting there in less than hospitable weather or at night is a problem. And having to return a Zipcar exactly where you got it from is just barely OK if you’re going somewhere downtown, and definitely not ideal when you are driving to any of the surrounding neighborhoods or cities.

Third, I’d still have to walk, bike, or bus to a Zipcar location, which is as much of a time-suck as actually taking the bus. At least the bus picks me up in front of my house.

I once used Zipcar for a late-night reporting assignment at Long Wharf Theatre. I picked the car up at Union Station. I work downtown, so this didn’t feel like a huge deal. I usually walk to Union Station, but it was dark, so I took a bus. You have to inspect your Zipcar before you drive off, and this one looked like whoever had driven it before me had side-swiped at least two or three cars on the way back to the station.

I lost precious minutes taking photos and calling Zipcar to let them know that I had not damaged the car. I had to pick up my co-worker and then get us to the theater all in time for the show we were heading to see. Four hours later, I had to drop my co-worker off in Wooster Square and then drop the Zipcar off at Union Station just after 10 p.m., which meant that there was no possibility of taking a bus and arriving home before midnight. Major bus routes run every hour or less after 7 p.m.; the Q route I take home stops altogether at that time. So I called Uber.

When I finally did the calculations on the whole adventure, I realized I could have rented a car for a weekend given what I spent for those four hours.

If I had taken Zipcar to Best Buy on Monday, I likely would have rented it for two hours and would have had to pick it up from SCSU’s campus or from Whitney Avenue. That means I would have had to take a bus, because it was raining, to a location that in both cases is more than a mile in the wrong direction from where I needed to go.

On average it would have cost me between $20 and $25, when all fees are considered. A round trip using Uber costs about the same, but at least it would be door-to-door service.

So I figured: “Why in the world would I spend that much money when I could take the bus?”

I forgot. This is Connecticut.

No Room For Error

Monday was the perfect day to take the bus because, unlike on a Saturday or a Sunday, the buses run pretty regularly during the week.

I once tried to take the bus to the Westfield Connecticut Post Mall on a Sunday. I was excited to hear there was an express bus there. The local bus takes a pretty scenic route past a beach, but stops every few minutes—I just wanted to go to the mall.

First I headed downtown (in the opposite direction of the Post Mall) to catch the express bus. I waited nearly an hour for a bus that my mind warned me was never coming. But I still had hope in my heart. I was even prepared to hop on the slow-moving O if it showed up.

Both buses finally made their way down Temple Street, one right behind the other. I was peeved, but relieved and in a forgiving mood—until the drivers neglected to stop. The drivers of both buses flew right past me as I jumped up and down at the bus stop. I will let you fill in the blanks of the various expletives that I muttered while shaking my tiny fist of fury.

But, on Monday, I was feeling optimistic. Google Maps said, depending on when I left and which buses I took, my trip to Best Buy on Boston Post Road would take from 55 minutes to an hour and 13 minutes one way.

I decided to set out in the morning since even the predictable Q bus gets a little less regular during the early afternoon, when many people are already at work. My goal was to not spend my whole day riding buses.

To say that I missed the goal would be an understatement—in part thanks to the transit system, but also because of my own stupid human fault.

With buses to the ‘burbs, there is no room for human error.

I caught the Q bus at some time after 10 a.m. As usual, it was right on time.

Rather than heading directly toward Best Buy, which is four miles away, the Q took me to the corner of Elm and Temple Streets so that I could transfer to the O bus. That first leg of the trip with traffic takes about 22 minutes.

The dreaded O bus with its multitude of stops was running a little late. But it was raining, so that’s understandable. Time was on my side.

It took every bit of about another 35 minutes, but I arrived at Best Buy.

Let me be more accurate: I arrived at the bus stop, at the sidewalk outside the massive parking lot that is between me and Best Buy.

I don’t mind the bus stop being where it is; I do mind dodging cars that don’t expect humans to be walking across a vast parking lot (since parking lots are clearly designed for cars and sidewalks for people).

I managed to get into the store without being run over. I was there to replace my digital activity tracker, which I had somehow destroyed during these first six months of the year while walking and biking all over New Haven. I made my selection and took it to customer service.

The customer service rep asked me if I had the old digital tracker that I wanted to replace. Oblivious to what was about to happen next, I replied that I didn’t. This lovely young woman said the words that ruined my day: “Oh. We need the old device.”

Hello palm. Meet my face.

Rookiest of transit-riding rookie mistakes. In the unwritten rulebook of tedious commuting and transit riding it states, “Thou shalt always, always have everything you need before you leave home.” On Monday, I broke that rule and I was about to suffer the consequences.

If this had been any other day, I would have just bagged the whole thing and gone home. But the next bus wasn’t coming for a good hour.

I went to find some lunch. There aren’t many options in this ‘burb. It was either Wendy’s, McDonald’s, or inside Target, the Pizza Hut Express or Starbucks.

If At First You Don’t Succeed

I would have walked around more, maybe spent a few dollars to boost the local economy. But the town of Orange apparently hates pedestrians. When you cross those sub-Saharan Desert-like parking lots, you might find a sidewalk. You might not. The sidewalk where the bus dutifully deposited me earlier went on for maybe another 100 feet in one direction. It was nonexistent in the opposite direction. Nor was there sidewalk on the other side of the highway.

I thought I had been temporarily transported back to the South, where I grew up and spent most of my life. If you don’t know, in that part of the country, public transportation tends to be a dirty word.

Speaking of the South, I also learned that that region of the country is not the only place where somebody thought it was a good idea to put bus stops in dangerous places.  To catch the O bus back to New Haven, one must stand at a bus stop that is staked out at the bottom of a hill, across a side street near the Target on Boston Post Road. More specifically, it is behind Wendy’s, where I had my lunch. There’s no sidewalk, or cement landing pad, or even a bus shelter. People either wait in the overgrown grass and bush, or they wait in the street.

I got to experience that on my return trip home twice. Yes, I took two buses back home, took a breather for an hour and charged my phone.

Then I started the whole journey all over again at just after 2 p.m. As I said, it was my day off, and I had the time. I made my exchange before the same customer service rep ended her shift, and made it home around 5 p.m. The whole ordeal cost me just under $5, and most of my day.

D.C. Daze

The two trips made me think about those people who don’t have the luxury of access to a car, or a day off during the week to leisurely navigate a bus system that just doesn’t make sense for a community considered an economic engine for the entire state.

I lived in the Washington, D.C. area before moving here last fall. For the first three years there I sat in traffic with everyone else, thanking my lucky stars that my commute was to the south, away from our nation’s capital, but still thinking it was ridiculous that every car, including my own, had only one person in it.

By my fourth year, I’d decided I had had enough. I lived in an area that was walkable and had decent public transportation. I asked myself why I was driving everywhere in the nation’s worst traffic, paying crazy gas prices and even crazier prices for car maintenance. I had an old car, and when it died, I didn’t replace it.

A year and a half after that I found myself here in New Haven, doing the two-step with a bus system that is inconvenient during the week, far worse after 7 p.m., and downright dysfunctional on the weekend. While Uber has been my default when all else has failed, it is an expensive solution to a problem that impacts the lives of so many people.When I think about what fixing this system could do to positively impact the lives of people like me and my fellow public transit users, I wonder what’s taking so long. (Click here, here, here, and here for links to stories exploring this question.)

When I try to navigate my new home without a car, I often wonder about my fellow commuters. How much of their lives are they losing in transit? Who is missing time with their kids because it takes so long to get home? Who is in danger of losing a job because they are chronically late? Who would take a job in the surrounding communities if they knew they had a reliable way to get there? Who has to cut things short because if they don’t get on the very next bus they will be stranded?

I think about a young woman I once interviewed who worked two jobs while finishing her degree at SCSU; how her mom had to get up before dawn to make sure she could get to her first job because the bus doesn’t run at a time that would allow her to get to work on time. I also think of the story of a woman who took a minimum-wage job at a Dunkin Donuts out on a highway and has to pay $25 for a cab every time she works a shift that doesn’t mesh with the bus schedule.

Like many working people in New Haven I’m committed to my car-free life for a mixture of financial and environmental reasons.  I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’d like to live a little less of my life in transit.

And when it’s time to catch a plane out of state ...

Grounded

If someone would have told me that it would be harder to get from New Haven to Hartford then it would be to get from New Haven to New York, I would not have believed them.

Until one Friday afternoon this February when I tried.

I had lucked up on a $99 round trip ticket from Hartford to Washington, D.C. I usually take the train down to D.C. because it is so convenient. At most, the only extra step I have to take is to find transportation to the train station.

But if you’ve ever taken the train to the nation’s capital, you know it could run you about $150. I’m a working-class hero who likes to save money, so I went for the flight.

I should have known something was going to go wrong when I saw that there was no direct way to get to Hartford from New Haven that didn’t involve an expensive cab ride or airport shuttle.

But I found some fairly explicit instructions aimed at Yale University students. It included information about an express CT Transit bus that leaves from Union Station and goes to downtown Hartford and connects with another bus that would take me to the airport.

Google Maps confirmed these instructions by showing me that the 950 Hartford Express would drop me in Hartford and then I could pick up the 30X Bradley Flyer.

I was confident that I would not screw this up.

As evidence that I am not completely incompetent: I have managed on several occasions to get myself from Alexandria, Virginia, to Baltimore-Washington Airport using nothing more than public transportation, including city buses, Washington Area Metrorail, and Amtrak/MARC train. I’ve never missed a flight. I didn’t even mess up the sequence of actions the first time I did it.

On this adventure to Hartford, in February, I got to Union Station several hours before I needed to be in Hartford. I wanted to give myself room for error.

I looked around for signs that might tell me what I needed to do to catch the bus to Hartford. The new digital board in the train station was lit up with departures and arrivals for Metro North and Amtrak. I saw a sign for Greyhound and Peter Pan, but no signs for CT Transit.

I told myself not to freak out. Somebody had to know about this CT Transit bus to Hartford.

I asked a man who worked in the station where I could pick up the CT transit bus to Hartford. The blank stare should have let me know that a comedy of errors was about to ensue.

He said he didn’t know about a CT Transit bus to Hartford. But he told me that the Peter Pan bus goes to Hartford. That’s great, but I had not reserved a seat on a Peter Pan bus. I was expecting to take a CT Transit bus to Hartford.

He said if there was a CT Transit bus to Hartford it would probably pick up out front. I thanked him for his help and went to do a little inspection.

Sure enough there was a schedule for the 950 Hartford Express on the bus shelter in front of the station. I took a deep breath and relaxed a little, thinking that everything would be fine.

Just 10 minutes before the 950 Hartford Express should have made its appearance, I went outside to wait. At exactly the time that the CT Transit bus was supposed to show up, I  saw the Peter Pan bus pull up.

For about 15 minutes, I watched  passengers get off the bus and new passengers get on. Just before the driver pulled off he changed the sign in his window to “Downtown Hartford.” I thought, “Surely, my bus is right behind this bus.”

But no CT Transit bus came.

No need to panic, I had plenty of time. Maybe the schedule had been modified.

As an extra precaution I called CT Transit to ask about the express bus and to get clarification on where the bus actually picked up. The dispatcher told me that the bus would pick up in front of the station and the next one would be back in two hours.

So I waited. Sure enough the Peter Pan bus came right around the same time that the CT Transit Bus should have showed up and did the exact same thing. 

Dropped off, picked up, flipped sign, drove off.

No CT Transit bus.

I wasn’t the only one baffled.

Two young men who were standing near the bus shelter appeared to be having the same problem. I asked them if they were trying to catch a CT Transit bus to Hartford. Yes. Did they ask people about the bus? Yes they did. They had received the same answers.

I called CT Transit back to essentially ask: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot? Is the Peter Pan bus the bus to Hartford.

Yes, I was told. It will be back in two hours.

I was tempted to yell: Are you friggin’ kidding me? 

But that rarely solves anything. It also would not have changed the fact that it was too late to take the bus and make the subsequent
connections. I didn’t have two hours to spare. I needed to get to the airport in time to get through security. It also was rush hour.

I did what I had to do. I called Uber, and the lovely man who was my driver allowed me to share my frustrations all the way to the airport.

I got to Bradley International with time to spare, though I was $95 poorer for the experience.

Then a funny/not so funny thing happened:  My plane had a malfunction. The airline was trying to fix it so that we could get down to D.C. We were grounded until it could be fixed.

It turned out it couldn’t be fixed. The flight was canceled. 

It was a Friday night. The airline told us that it could get us down to D.C. Saturday if we could get ourselves to ... guess where? Tweed-New Haven Airport.

Yes. I spent a full day in transit hell, trying to get out of New Haven, only to be told that the only flight that I could be re-booked on to get to
Washington D.C., that weekend was in New Haven. 

No, the airline would not pay for my hotel if I stayed the night in Hartford. No, the airline would not provide me a cab ride to New Haven—because New Haven is considered “local” to Hartford.

Cue The Price Is Right-loser music.

It was nearly 10 at night. I realized that I was not going to make it out of the state that weekend. I got a flight refund and booked a
hotel near the airport.

I called Uber once again, this time to take me to the hotel. I don’t have an aversion to taxis, but the taxi stand at Bradley International Airport clearly did not care that I was having a rough transit night. Being told to wait outside in the cold while someone got in the booth to assign me to a taxi had me at the end of my rope.

I spent the night in Windsor Locks, which, like most ‘burbs, closes up after 10. So there was nothing more to do but go to bed.

The next morning, I was determined to just get back to New Haven. I was going to Uber to downtown Hartford’s Union Station. But the woman at the front desk assured me that I could pick up the Bradley Flyer bus just outside the hotel.

Sure enough there was a bus stop just a few feet from the hotel ... buried in snow. Windsor Locks hates people who ride the bus.

I waited for the bus in the parking lot of the hotel. When I saw the bus a distance away, I grabbed my luggage and sprinted down one side of this four-lane highway hoping that the bus driver would see me and not run me over.

It worked: I made it to Union Station without incident. I walked up to the Peter Pan window to purchase a ticket, because now I know that it is the “CT Transit” bus that returns to New Haven’s Union Station.

The nice man in the window suggested that I take Amtrak, because it would get me there sooner.

He said I would otherwise have had to wait in the station for two hours, because it was Saturday and the bus doesn’t run that often. What helpful information. I secured a ticket from Amtrak and got back to New Haven in about 40 minutes. I called Uber and arrived in Westville by 2 p.m. a full 24 hours after the whole transit ordeal started.

I have since used a combination of a Greyhound bus and the Bradley Flyer to get to the airport. I also have since discovered the urban navigation app Roadify. But I still can’t help but think that nothing should be this complicated.

CT Transit being more explicit about the fact that it doesn’t operate the express bus to Hartford would have made a big difference.

After that ordeal, I finally found information about the route to Hartford that said Peter Pan operates the route, but there is no information about whether you need to reserve a seat, or if you can pay on the bus, or even use a bus pass.

An information desk staffed with a volunteer or an employee (or a
combination of the two) who knows all about the various transit options that operate out of Union Station would be a great help. Because not everybody has a smartphone. For those of us who do have smartphones, a trip planner app specifically for New Haven’s Union Station also would be helpful. 

I know there are big hopes for reinventing Union Station in years to come, but many of these little fixes could help the city’s car-less right now.

Related Stories On Bus Service In New Haven

* Common Complaints: Crowding, Inconvenience
* Commute By Bus Must Start 2 1/2 Hours Ahead
Can Bus Woes Be Solved?
* CT Transit Drove Me To Zipcar
* Fares Paid 22 Percent of the Cost of Running the Bus
* State Bus Boss: What Broken System?
* Report: Transit’s Not Keeping Up With “Job Sprawl”
*Cleaner Air, Upgrades Increase Maintenance Costs for CT Transit
* 28 CT Transit Bus Injuries Reported In City This Year
* CT Transit Can’t Count Crowding Yet
* Lost, Looking for the J Bus
* It’s Safer on the Bus
* 25 Years in, Eligio Keeps the Wheel Steady
* Class Waits For No Bus
* Guayquier & Terrier Board the G
* The Bus Gets Personal
* The Bus Helps Him Think
* Rafel Sanabria Has Big Plans
* Where Would You Really Want The Bus To Take You?
* With Whom Would You Want To Ride The Bus?
* Next Stop: Karma
* Resto Steers the O
* The Bus Stop is Quiet on Sundays
* Foley: Let People Drive
* Malloy Vows To “Build a Better Bus System”
* ‘I’m Sick of Driving’
* Work Search Starts With The Bus
* Der Bus Ist Gut
* Football Win Makes The Bus Ride Bearable
* Brenda Works Around the F Bus
* Where’d the Q3 Go?
* 3-Hour Commute Includes 3 Buses, 1 Train
* On Inaugural Ride, Student Meets the D Bus “Queen”

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Comments

posted by: Gauss on June 19, 2015  2:08pm

What could you possibly need at Best Buy that you cannot buy online or somewhere closer? I have lived in New Haven for 7 years and I have been into that store exactly once (from pure curiosity, I didn’t need or buy anything).

posted by: Theodora on June 19, 2015  2:12pm

Westville is not a place for the car-less. There are several apartment building going up near the State Street train line in the coming years and they will be for the car-less.

Zip car membership, Pea Pod, laundry pick up and delivery, occasional use of Uber or taxis. Study and purchase online. All of this is a lot less expensive than a car (and insurance and parking and maintenance). It saves a lot of time in comparison to public transit.

It is also a healthier option. And it is better for the environment.

posted by: Cyclogist on June 19, 2015  2:27pm

Wow. I’ve been reading these articles about public transportation but this one take the cake! Redeker, are you reading this?  What gives?

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on June 19, 2015  3:12pm

Buy A Moped.

posted by: ILivehere on June 19, 2015  4:11pm

Who cares the bus system is an entitlement like section 8 or food stamps stop looking a gift horse in the mouth. I pay over $300 a month just to park my cars in this city I don’t complain about it. We live with the choices we make. You don’t want to have a car fine but why should I pay for your bus ticket? Public transportation is not a right. Also just use amazon.com

posted by: wendy1 on June 19, 2015  5:27pm

Next time call me and I’ll drive you.  I’m retired and bored and Paul B. has my number.  You can sit shotgun.

I’d rather have trollies but mass transit is part of the answer for our eco-system.  The DOT are f——- U-.

posted by: Pat from Westville on June 19, 2015  6:09pm

Based on 7 winters’ experience as a car-less rider on CT Transit, I might say that it isn’t only Windsor Lakes that hates people who ride the bus. When I first saw the photo of the snow bound bus stop, I thought it was in New Haven, it looked a lot like the stop at Ellesworth & Whalley during the 6 weeks from the first major snow that last week in January. It was so bad I crossed Whalley to take the bus downtown to catch the Q back home (I live in Westville too). And I was standing IN the street as that stop, in front of Walgreens and with a bus stop shelter, was similarly encased in snow at least a foot out from the curb. Snow removal improvement this past winter did NOT include keeping bus stops clear of snow, even downtown opposite the old Chapel Square Mall was a mess. All the folks involved in the city’s snow emergency plans are, unfortunately for us bus riders, motorists with no actual experience of the overwhelming difficulties added to the already less than perfect (!) CT Transit experience by winter.

posted by: Brian Tang on June 19, 2015  6:09pm

My first time on the 950 bus, returning to New Haven from Bradley, I thought I had boarded the Knight Bus from Harry Potter. Like Ms. Ricks, I let at least two Peter Pan buses pass me by before I noticed the little placard in the window that said “New Haven.” I managed to flag down the last bus of the evening. Inside there was no fare box. Instead people were just handing the driver wads of cash. I tried to ask how much the fare was, but I must have seemed so bewildered that the driver just said “get on” & didn’t charge. By the time I got home it felt like a miracle, or some dream. I was astonished I had made it home at all.

I have since ridden the 950 many times. I highly recommend getting a 10-ride pass, since you get a 10% discount ($4.64/ride instead of $5.15), it never expires, & it takes out the sketchiness of handing cash to the driver. It is true that this route is under-publicized. One could be forgiven for thinking they are intentionally hiding its existence. After all, CT Transit is itself just a brand name layered on top of various private contractors. The 950 is then subcontracted out to Peter Pan, which also runs its own, less-subsidized route that charges $18 between Hartford & New Haven. If you dig, you’ll find that the 950 bus leaves from berth 11 at the Hartford Union Station bus terminal, although the reader board with all of the Peter Pan buses never lists it.

This is all symptomatic of the broader way we have organized the administration of our transit system. There is zero local accountability. Supposedly the companies operating the bus services are accountable to the state DOT, but it is unrealistic to expect a handful of people in Newington to effectively oversee various contractors operating hundreds of bus routes in Stamford, Waterbury, Meriden, Hartford, New London, New Britain, Wallingford, & New Haven. The public buses and trains should be publicly owned and publicly governed, not opaquely run by private companies with public money.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on June 19, 2015  8:25pm

posted by: ILivehere on June 19, 2015 5:11pm

Who cares the bus system is an entitlement like section 8 or food stamps stop looking a gift horse in the mouth

Look at who benfits from food stamps.

REPORT: JP MORGAN MAKES OVER HALF A BILLION DOLLARS OFF FOOD STAMPS.


A new report by the Government Accountability Institute finds that JP Morgan has made at least $560,492,596 since 2004 processing the Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards of 18 of the 24 states it has under contract for the food stamp program.


http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2012/10/01/report-jp-morgan-makes-over-half-a-billion-dollars-off-food-stamps/

How Section 8 became a ‘racial slur’
A history of public housing in America.

Most of these early projects were built for whites, and whites of a particular kind: the “barely poor,” as Vale puts it — the upwardly mobile working class, with fathers working in factory jobs.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2015/06/15/how-section-8-became-a-racial-slur/

posted by: Eva G on June 19, 2015  8:48pm

As a life-long resident of New Haven who doesn’t drive, I read this article and found myself wishing Ms. Ricks had gotten in touch with me for advice before attempting any of this. The Post Road, to a non-driver, is essentially a no-go unless COSMICALLY necessary; and Hartford/New Haven travel is a joke. (I have never understood why this is the case, but it’s always been so in my lifetime.)

A large part of why I live where I live—not Westville—is because I can handle what I need to do on a day-to-day basis without a car. It’s pretty unusual for me to need to do something that requires someone to drive me someplace. I can’t deny, it happens from time to time, but I’d say 90% of what I have to/want to do, I can do on my own or with public transit.

Peapod is a lifesaver, now that I no longer live within walking distance of a big supermarket.

For real fun, let me suggest you try that Boston Post Road trip while accompanied by a toddler. Hilarity will not ensue.

You’ve got all my sympathy. Let me know if I can ever help you out :)

posted by: Wikus van de Merwe on June 20, 2015  4:13am

Amazon also does grocery delivery now too.  It seems the future is going to be delivery of goods directly to your doorstep, which will greatly reduce the need for public transportation.

So instead of ramping up the production of something we know will be obsolete in the future why don’t we figure out a way to ramp up the services we know will be here in the future.

Work out a way to get these delivery services in NH cheaper, faster, etc…

How about talking with the State Government about getting Google in here as a test case for driverless cars (drone taxis).

Do we have a city-wide wifi so that everyone has access to delivery and car services?

And as a person who owns cars I can assure you that DRIVING through New Haven is equally as tedious.

posted by: Bradley on June 20, 2015  6:11am

Going to Brian’s point on accountability, one simple step Connecticut Transit could take is to track and publicize the on-time performance of each of its routes (the MTA does this for New York’s subway lines). If the buses on a line are consistently late, this may be due to factors beyond the driver’s control, such as changes in traffic patterns in which case the schedule should be adjusted, or it may be a management issue. Another simple step is for Connecticut Transit to put stickers with its URL on the bus stop signs so that people can access schedule and fare information from a smartphone.

Connecticut Transit should also create a bus tracker GPS system so that riders know where the bus actually is. Doug Hausladen has been pushing for this and has been told that we are next in line now that the FastTrack line has begun service in Hartford. I suspect that public pressure in this area would be helpful.

posted by: Common_Tator on June 20, 2015  9:35am

My experience involved having to cycle into town daily for 3 years, from Orange to downtown. The biggest challenge in the city was avoiding opening car doors. The Post Road presents opportunities for improvement too numerous to name here. Sidewalks, or rather, the lack thereof. Where they do exist it’s like 4 lane hop scotch, there is probably no continuous stretch longer than 300 feet. Then there is the situation at UNH- There is NO breakdown lane on either side of the hill never mind sidewalks of bike lanes, I repeat- You HAVE to walk or ride in a traffic lane. It’s suicidal but for many folks there is no choice. I have been hit by cars 4 times int he last 20 years on the Post Road, twice by drivers entering Savers, one from each direction (Their patrons are obsessed to the point of blindness, someday I’ll have to go in there and see what’s cooking) One girl threw $35 at me and took off before the cops could get there.

posted by: TheMadcap on June 20, 2015  11:09am

Ilivehere complains about paying $300 a month for parking, meanwhile many of us don’t even have the extra $300 a month to spend on the actual car. Also I don’t know why you’re all recommending Peapod, I mean outside of any economic constraints most people want to see the food they’re buying, but more importantly, to go back to the first issue, Peapod is more expensive than showing up at Stop & Shop. Same with Uber, in what world is Uber, a regular taxi or a zip car cheaper than a $1.50 bus ticket(which is a bit cheaper if you buy a multi use pass). This is the disconnect between those who could but willingly choose not to drive and those who can’t afford to drive(ironically the strip malls on Rt.1 is where a lot of poor people need to go to work).

posted by: DingDong on June 20, 2015  4:27pm

As long-time carless New Haven resident, I’m not quite sure how to react to this article.  On the one hand, it’s certainly true that there are lot of simple fixes that would be essentially free, or close to it, to improve transit service in Connecticut.  Why does the CT transit bus to Hartford not say CT Transit on the outside?  Why are long-distance bus departures such as this one not shown on the departures monitor of the train station (or on a different monitor?).  Why are the bus and train schedules not better coordinated so that’s easier to get to Bradley from New Haven?  There’s really no excuse for this sort of thing.  One the other hand, I’ve lived here without a car for some time and it’s really fine and that article strikes me as rather whiny. With a little effort and experience, you get quite good at knowing when to take the bus, when to walk, when to take Zipcar, when to rent a car, when to use Uber, when just to forget about it and order something on Amazon.  That said, I get it: it takes a while to learn this stuff and it should really be much more user-friendly.  (Google Maps makes things a lot easier, though).

And the bigger picture is that the state is really pathetic when it comes to thinking about non-car users.  There’s a culture of incompetence at DOT (see above about the easy, free things they could be doing).  The state is spending a little more on transit now than before but it is totally dwarfed compared to spending on widening I-84 in Waterbury and the Q-bridge. Finally, land-use policies that encourage non-walkable, strip mall-type developments in all the suburbs and even in parts of New Haven will guarantee that, no matter how much money we spend on transit, you will just need a car to get a lot of places in the state.  But with a population that’s primarily suburban and doesn’t think it’s at all odd that every trip you make from your house—even just to buy milk—-requires a car, it’s hard to imagine how that will change.

posted by: robn on June 21, 2015  9:33am

THEMADCAP,

Even factoring in public transportations low cost, the transit time (amplified by stops which is inherent to public transportation), plus the shopping time,  multiplied by a minimum wage adds to the cost of a shopping trip and exceeds Peapod delivery cost which is @$6-10. The argument about whether or not people shod own or use s car is a distraction because we already know many poor people don’t own them and we know that public transportation is important for access to jobs. So I agree with your more important point that there are many low skill post road jobs and better transit to there is important to poor people. I know for sure that the hub and spoke system in New Haven is a huge inefficiency but from other comments, it sounds like CTTransit also has a general coordination/communication problem.

posted by: Kendall on June 21, 2015  12:09pm

As a car-less CT resident, I can relate.

For local travel, I mostly bike or walk, and occasionally take the Yale shuttle (local transit takes too long), Uber or rely on the graciousness of car owning friends. For out of town travel, it’s usually one-way to somewhere south on Metro North or Amtrak, unless I can convince said gracious car-owning friends to let me borrow their car to run errands.

Being car-less also renders a lot of CT—including pockets of my own community—not reasonably accessible. Unlike a lot of people in New Haven, I’m lucky to only work a mile away from where I live, so my daily commute is nearly non-existent.I can seek out distant places for pleasure, rather than the business of survival. I shop at the overpriced bodega around the corner from my house as a trade-off to needing a car to drive to a more economical market a few miles away.

For the most part, this just means that I have to be calculated in setting my priorities and can’t expect things to happen at the pace that they would if I had an automobile of my own. I have to be creative about seizing opportunities to run errands or get out of town, or decide when to eliminate those errands altogether.  I also love riding my bike, so I would opt for that over a car ride most any day. Not everyone can afford to take the time.

When I finally had to take the plunge and get a CT drivers license (another story altogether), I had to alternately take a taxi, walk home, and then bike back and forth on a not very walk-bike friendly road to the DMV in Hamden. I suppose that what amounted to an eight hour DMV adventure was indoctrination into the heinous world of both the car-d and car-less in CT.

Whether with car or without, I think that there are ways that we can all advocate for a better public transit, an improved network of bike and pedestrian paths and shared roadways, as well as bringing more resources into our city so they are not out of reach to car-less residents.

posted by: DingDong on June 21, 2015  1:58pm

As Madcap reminds me, when I said living here is fine without car, that’s also because I am fortunate enough to be able to walk to work.  If my work (or my home) were in a different location, it would be quite difficult.

On Uber and Zipcar being expensive: sure, they cost more than the bus, but they cost much less (for me at least) than owning, insuring, maintaing and parking a car.

posted by: DingDong on June 21, 2015  2:20pm

And yes, it’s absurd that you have to pay all these CT tourism and rental car surcharges for Zipcar.  It’s as if the General Assembly were trying to discourage car-sharing.  If a car rental is for less than 24 hours (hey, make it less than 12 hours if you prefer), it should only be subject to sales tax, not a whole host of tourism fees.

posted by: Theodora on June 21, 2015  4:01pm

Madcap,

Freeing oneself from a car — and the huge expensive associated with it — means that people can spend more for services and still save money. Do you feel you really need to see your box of cereal or jar of salsa to make a purchase? That seems like a very odd reason to not like Peapod.

posted by: TheMadcap on June 21, 2015  7:31pm

“means that people can spend more for services and still save money”

Yeah, but again, a good deal of people who take public transit didn’t have the money to spend on the car in the first place, ergo why they ride the bus.

Also guys, I can assure you Peapod is more expensive than going to Stop & Shop because I unforatnely work at a Stop & Shop. Peapod is a convenience service which you are in fact paying for. Outside of the delivery charge there are numerous offers, deals and coupons that can’t apply to Peapod. Also, Peapod does not accept food stamps, WIC or TANF, which obviously causes a problem for a many in the bus riding demographic.(but yes, there’s also the fact most of us want to see the food we’re buying, cause a lot of it isn’t dried cereal or canned food, all aside from the fact many people shop by browsing)

posted by: mcg2000 on June 21, 2015  9:34pm

While I do wish that the same time & attention given to CT Fast Track was given to public transportation in the greater New Haven area,there are a few immediate fixes to alleviate some of the problems mentioned in the article. An app where riders could track the status of their bus would be great. Better signage regarding CT Transit buses including the 950 Peter Pan bus and more knowledgable staff at both New Haven’s and Hartford’s Union Stations. I actually was at a Peter Pan counter in Hartford to inquire about where to find the 950 bus to New Haven (the bus wasn’t listed on the Greyhound and Peter Panboard) and the Peter Pan employee told me when the next unsubsidized Peter Pan bus was. It wasn’t until I asked more questions that I found out the bus was on track 11. Better weekend service up and down the Boston Post Road. If you go out there midmorning to run an errand, you may find yourself with a 2 hour gap before the next bus to New Haven. It is often easier to get to and from New Haven to Mohegan Sun Casino by bus than it is to Hartford.

posted by: jdossgollin on June 22, 2015  8:22am

posted by: ILivehere on June 19, 2015 5:11pm

Who cares the bus system is an entitlement like section 8 or food stamps stop looking a gift horse in the mouth. I pay over $300 a month just to park my cars in this city I don’t complain about it. We live with the choices we make. You don’t want to have a car fine but why should I pay for your bus ticket? Public transportation is not a right. Also just use amazon.com

So you use the multi-billion dollar Q bridge? Tax dollars The City pays a lot of money for snow removal, pothole removal, etc.

Lots of valuable property is paved over for parking lots, which costs landlords big time. It’s not by choice—it’s by zoning regulation.

We already subsidize car travel like crazy through highways, maintenance, etc. Often times, subsidizing public transportation can save a lot of money by reducing wear and tear on the roads. Imagine if we had good park and rides to get downtown on weekdays—we might not need to be CONSTANTLY doing expensive construction on the merge. That’s tax $$ saved right there.

It’s not an easy fix, and maybe buses aren’t the answer, but stop pretending like we don’t already subsidize transport big time.

posted by: Jill_the_Pill on June 22, 2015  8:39am

This completely agrees with my experiences with the New Haven bus system.  Riding the buses, trams and local trains in Kyoto and Oslo convinced me that our transit system is an embarrassing dinosaur. There you can walk safely to a clearly marked shelter or station and watch the minutes til your next bus tick down on an LED board.  The bus never skips your stop.  Everyone loads on quickly because payment is by card reader far inside the bus.  Having a car in those cities would be an expensive nuisance.

posted by: ILivehere on June 22, 2015  8:53am

@jdossgollin the difference is everyone uses roads and bridges. Even if you never left your house they are needed for goods and services. The bus system is strictly for the under achieving and charges less then it costs to maintain the system. Then we have people who aren’t even paying for the service they are using complain its not good enough. The conversation should at least start by doubling the bus fair. Also the highways are paid for by the gas tax that car drives pay at every fill up and I would have no problem adding tolls back in to roads. My point is I have no problem paying for what I use and I think it takes real chutzpah to complain about something you are getting at a pretty steep discount. It like downloading the free app and being upset its not fully functional but not wanting to pay the $1.00 for the full version.

posted by: robn on June 22, 2015  9:43am

ILIVEHER,

Forgetting for a moment the issue of whether you agree with entitlements, since the general public including non-bus users is subsidizing a public transportation system (one that theoretically should be making poor people more mobile and get them access to more jobs and therefore less public support) don’t you want that system to be as useful and efficient as it possibly can?

posted by: anonymous on June 22, 2015  10:07am

I agree with DingDong’s comments above.  While there are some issues, it’s convenient and quite possible to live in New Haven without a car. For example, you can use trains and fly from LGA or JFK airports instead of Bradley, which is often much cheaper anyways.

One of the main reasons why DOT won’t improve bus service, even though it would cost almost nothing to do so, is because they wouldn’t be able to keep up with the increased demand that would result. 

For example - adding GIS boards that tell you where the next bus is would generate huge demand for the system and thousands more people would start riding the bus overnight.  That would be a problem given that many buses are already overcrowded.

In addition to fixing service issues, we need to be lobbying for more buses.

posted by: ILivehere on June 22, 2015  11:33am

@robn,
The thing is I believe the system is the best it can be with the limited resources it currently receives. Here is the current map http://www.cttransit.com/uploads_RTDivisionSystem/NH_SysMap_2013.pdf and aside from a central depot outside of the downtown area I can think of a meaningful change I would make. People who ride the busses want more busses and more routes and better service in general but they are not willing to pay for it. As someone who would never consider riding a bus I don’t think I should have to pay for it and that how we end up with a state dipping into its rainy day fund and a city with a most departments at half staff and a mill rate at 42. If the bus system looses money on every ticket adding more buses will just lead to more losses its not sustainable. I recognize perhaps people cant afford to pay more for a ticket but that’s their problem and the only other solution is to tax people who would never use the system and taxes are too high already. The only solution for people is to fight there way out of poverty and people wont do that if we continue to hand them everything they need without earning it.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on June 22, 2015  12:13pm

posted by: ILivehere on June 22, 2015 12:33pm

I recognize perhaps people cant afford to pay more for a ticket but that’s their problem and the only other solution is to tax people who would never use the system and taxes are too high already. The only solution for people is to fight there way out of poverty and people wont do that if we continue to hand them everything they need without earning it.

When the Wall Street bubble burst in 2008 because of excessive risk-taking, millions of working Americans lost their jobs, health insurance, savings, and homes.Yet crooked wall street and bankers got government handouts. Both are They are still engaging in the same sorts of market manipulation and tax gaming as they did before the crisis.So should crooked wall street and bankers be the only one to get handouts.


My bad I forgot.What about those golden parachutes the crooked wall street and bankers
get.

These CEOs Got Paid $100+ Million Each To Quit


When Gene Isenberg stepped down as CEO of Nabors Industries last fall, the company paid him $100,000,000 in cash as part of his employment agreement.


http://www.businessinsider.com/the-21-largest-golden-parachutes-of-the-new-millenium-2012-1

posted by: robn on June 22, 2015  12:23pm

ILIVEHERE,

Let me try to put it to you in terms of your own self interest. If a person is jobless, they’re contributing nothing to the economy or to the state tax rolls. If they’re working full time making minimum wage (half of a CT living wage BTW and that person is probably still unable to afford a car) they’re making @$19K/yr and at 5% are paying $950 in state taxes. That number just about subsidizes an annual round trip bus ticket to and from work. Seems like break even but what that person isn’t doing is leaning on the state for more public assistance. So isn’t that moving that person in the right direction and isn’t that good for you as well? Subsidized transportation seems more like a fishing pole than a fish.

posted by: ILivehere on June 22, 2015  12:35pm

@Threefifths
Are you actually arguing that because a bunch of CEOs of major banks were able to game they system (although there companies stock prices still have not recovered.) that its ok for people on the other end to game it right back with entitlements and the rampant redistribution of wealth. Why cant people just get up and go to school or work and earn a living without taking what doesn’t belong to them or thinking that the world owes them something.

posted by: TheMadcap on June 22, 2015  12:46pm

“My point is I have no problem paying for what I use”

You don’t pay for anything. Neither at the federal level or state level do gas tax receipts come anywhere close to covering the transportation budget. In fact, the budget deal that just passed allocated a half point of our state’s sales tax to the transportation fund, a tax that falls most heavily on the poor, the people least likely to actually drive. And this is just talking about surface infrastructure, let alone the immense cost of pollution as well the hit to the municipal tax base of unusable city land(being taken up by parking spaces instead of retail or residential) Funny how that works out.

posted by: ILivehere on June 22, 2015  1:23pm

@TheMadcap as I said before since everyone uses the roads for goods and services you could not leave your house and still rely on the roads heavily.

@robn This story is about getting to a Best Buy but for getting to work sure I wouldn’t complain about CT rides getting added funding for people with full times jobs making less then 30k.

posted by: webblog on June 22, 2015  5:04pm

Judging from her story line Ms. Ricks has learned the painful lesson that living in the inner city, or in this case, Westville,  the fringe of the inner city, there are no modern conveniences within walking/ biking distances. Most, but not all, items of human necessity is located in outer areas of New Haven County where it is factually believed most of the available spending and less of the crime exist.

Even if Ms. Ricks owned a car, she has to drive miles out of the inner city fringe to buy gas, especially discounted gas, which is best priced on that same post road all the way to Milford.

So the morel of your story Ms. Ricks is to forget about Malloy’s mass transit, he will be out of office before it gets off the ground, buy yourself a car, and join the rest of us unhappy traffic and smog dwellers motoring to our own karma.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on June 22, 2015  8:16pm

posted by: ILivehere on June 22, 2015 1:35pm

@Threefifths
Are you actually arguing that because a bunch of CEOs of major banks were able to game they system (although there companies stock prices still have not recovered.) that its ok for people on the other end to game it right back with entitlements and the rampant redistribution of wealth. Why cant people just get up and go to school or work and earn a living without taking what doesn’t belong to them or thinking that the world owes them something.

The problem is when the small fry games the system they go to jail.When CEOs of major banks game the system they do not.

Fun Fact: Not One Crooked Banker Has Gone to Jail

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/nick-fillmore/bad-bankers-in-jail_b_3909609.html

Are you saying the crooked bankers should get a pass and not the small fry?

My bad I forgot.Most of those crooked bankers and Hedge funders went to school.So your point.

posted by: westville man on June 23, 2015  7:37am

Webblog

Very confusing post-  We actually have several gas stations here in Westville, 2 stop & shops within 2 miles of us, restaurants, coffee shops, corner convenience stores, pharmacies, dentists, doctors and other services all within 1-2 miles or less of Westville.
Not really sure what you’re talking about (items of human necessity??). 
Saving a nickel a gallon on gas by driving to Milford??

posted by: HewNaven on June 23, 2015  10:51am

Our public transportation system stinks. Amenities for pedestrians and cyclists are lacking, especially in the bordering towns (e.g. Orange, West Haven). But the real lesson here, is:

Don’t rely on Big Box Stores like Best Buy, Target, Home Depot, Lowe’s, etc.. They are NOT worth all that trouble! Keep your money next time!!

Seriously, thank you for this story. CTTransit needs to here more detailed testimonials like this.