State officials unveiled the first in a fleet of new buses, which will soon carry passengers along a dedicated bus route running from Hartford to New Britain.
The project, known as CTfastrak, is expected to begin operation sometime in March and will have a fleet of about 70 new buses to compliment the state’s existing bus fleet. State Transportation Commissioner James Redeker and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman showed off the first completed bus at a press conference Monday outside the State Capitol.
The buses are electric hybrid vehicles and will range in size from 30 feet to 40 feet. The green and gray bus at Monday’s press conference was of the 40-foot variety, which Redeker said will seat 35 passengers and will have space for about 15 people to stand.
Wyman said the project is a step in the right direction for Connecticut’s public transit system and would help to ease highway gridlock and greenhouse gas emissions.
“Public transit is widely successful in so many parts of our country, but in Connecticut we haven’t yet done all the things we need to modernize and update our system. Connecticut’s first bus-rapid-transit project changes that,” Wyman said.
The 9.4-mile bus corridor will have 11 stations between the two cities and is funded by $455 million in federal funds and $112 million from the state. Proponents say the transit system will encourage economic development along its route.
Opponents say the project is a waste of money because it will be under-utilized. Early in its construction, critics labeled the project as “the busway to nowhere.” One of those critics, Sen. Joseph Markley, R-Southington, attended Monday’s press conference and spoke to reporters after officials opened the bus for attendees to board and take a look around.
“I think you’ve got more people on that bus right now than you are ever going to see once they start running it,” he said. “There’s no demand to go from New Britain to Hartford. We run a bus already, twice an hour . . . I’ve ridden that bus repeatedly. There’s a dozen people — 15 people on it. Now we’re going to be running 20 buses an hour.”