Gov. Dannel P. Malloy joined the mayors of Manchester and East Hartford in New Britain Monday to announce plans to expand the CTFastrak busway to Manchester.
The new expanded east of the river busway wouldn’t necessarily be a dedicated right-of-way like the 9.4 miles between New Britain and Hartford, but it would use existing high occupancy vehicle lanes on I-84. Malloy said there is money in the new two-year budget to increase operations and maybe build parking lots or stations.
“What we’re announcing is that we’re going to do it,” Malloy said.
Exactly how all the pieces fall together and how long it takes to expand service east of the river is still up in the air.
“I would hope we can begin service relatively quickly,” Malloy said. “Within 12 months is what I want to see happen.”
Manchester Mayor Jay Moran and East Hartford Mayor Marcia LeClerc were on hand Monday for the announcement.
LeClerc said there are 150,000 jobs within a mile of the corridor between Hartford and Manchester, who could benefit from faster bus service.
“A reliable public transportation system plays a critical role in economic development, job creation, and quality of life,” LeClerc said. “Extending the line provides reliable transportation and job access for residents from New Britain to Manchester and all points in between.”
According to a report compiled by the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, 81 percent of commuters drive their car alone into Hartford every day, while most Hartford residents have jobs outside the city. The Metro Hartford Progress Points report released last April found 65 percent of Hartford residents work outside the city and one of the largest employment areas is retail in and around Buckland Hills mall.
CTFastrak is averaging 14,500 trips daily in the central corridor between New Britain and Hartford, however, that counts the existing ridership of about 8,000 daily and another 700 riders who zip through the corridor on an express bus to Waterbury. The daily weekday ridership of 14,500 in the month of May is higher than the 11,200 daily trips projected in the first year of service.
In the coming days, CTFastrak, which opened by offering free fares for the first nine days at the end of March and beginning of April, will reach 500,000 riders.
There is also a reward program being offered by several nearby businesses. Businesses like the Corner Pug in West Hartford and Black Eyed Sally’s in Hartford are giving riders deals. All the rider has to do is present their ticket to a participating business to get a free appetizer or 10 percent off their entree.
“The new CTFastrak Rewards Program is a smart tool for business owners to attract more attention and customers,” James Varano, owner of Black Eyed Sally’s said. “It’s just one of the many evolving advantages of this new CTFastrak Bus Rapid Transit System.”