Jack Kramer / ctnewsjunkie

HARTFORD, CT — CTtransit bus route service, starting Aug. 13, will provide University of Connecticut students, faculty, and staff the ability to connect directly to downtown Hartford via public transit.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Connecticut Department of Transportation Commissioner James P. Redeker made that announcement Thursday at Union Station.

UConn students, from all campuses, are eligible to ride the bus at no charge simply by showing their student ID and a UPass obtained through the university, the costs of which are included in university fees.

UConn students will pay $20 per semester for the right to ride the bus, raising a total of about $800,000 for the $1.9 million service.

The state will pay the remaining $1.1 million.

Asked whether it was the right time to starting a new bus service when the state was operating without a budget and a multi-billion budget deficit, Malloy emphatically said it was.

“This is too good an opportunity to pass up,” the governor said, stating Connecticut was decades behind Massachusetts, which has a similar system that connects Boston University and Boston College students to downtown Boston.

“An investment in our transportation system is an investment in our economic development, and it makes great sense to considerably improve connections between campuses within our state’s flagship university,”  Malloy said.

House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, disagreed.

“We are asking Gov. Malloy to reconsider expanding bus service to the UConn campuses at this time as services for the needy, including elderly food programs and support for the disabled, are being cut,” Klarides said.

Klarides noted that the school year has not even begun and the expansion does not represent a pressing need.

“By linking these three campuses together via public transit, in addition to the ability to connect to other destinations in Central Connecticut, including the upcoming Hartford Line rail commuter system with convenient connections to Bradley International Airport, we are making smart investments in our economy,” Malloy added.

The governor predicted the buses “will be very crowded” and that the service will be expanded in the near future.

“This new service gives residents more opportunities to pursue education, expand employment options, even access restaurants, entertainment, and shopping,” Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman said.  “It’s the modern transit connectivity that is vital for quality of life and commerce.”

The extended bus route will run hourly and include the following stops: Nash-Zimmer Transportation Center; Storrs Center (Connections to UConn Transportation for travel around campus and for connections to Willimantic); UConn campus Whitney Hall; Route 195 at Route 44 (Four Corners); Tolland park and ride lot; Buckland Hills Mall; Manchester – Buckland park and ride (Bus Stops A & B); Downtown Hartford at Central Row (a short walk to UConn Hartford campus and connections to other local and express bus services); Union Station, Hartford; CTfastrak Sigourney Street station (transfer available via CTfastrak Route 121 to UConn Health in Farmington)

Jack Kramer / ctnewsjunkie
Department of Transportation Commissioner James Redeker (Jack Kramer / ctnewsjunkie)

Commuters on the extended route will have the ability to connect to the CTfastrak bus network in Central Connecticut, as well as the upcoming Hartford Line commuter rail system, which will launch in May 2018 and provide more frequent train service between New Haven, Hartford and Springfield.

“The initiation of this service represents a major partnership between UConn and the Connecticut Department of Transportation, and represents our shared vision of the importance of quality transit service for the university,” Redeker said.  “Transit service has been very popular with college students, and we are thrilled to being able to extend the reach of our system to Storrs. We’re making it as easy as possible – students simply need to show their student ID and pass, and they can hop on board the bus.”

The route will open around the same time as UConn’s new downtown Hartford campus.

University of Connecticut President Susan Herbst said they hope it will “help us attract more people to consider working and studying at the Storrs campus who otherwise didn’t have transportation.”

Herbst wasn’t at the press conference but UConn Chief Financial Officer Scott Jordan was.

“This is a big day for UConn nation,” Jordan said. “This bus will be full.”

Jordan said not only will UConn students benefit from the bus runs but he said so will the city of Hartford.

“We are a job creator,” Jordan said. The fact that UConn students will now be able to access Hartford by bus will expand UConn’s workforce in Hartford.

UConn’s downtown Hartford campus, which is located on Prospect Street at the site of the former Hartford Times building, will open later this month in time for the fall 2017 semester.

CTtransit is the CTDOT-owned bus service that operates 136 local routes and 24 express bus routes in the Hartford area. For schedule, fare and trip planning information visit www.CTtransit.com.

All CTtransit routes can also be located on Google Transit, and routing and real time vehicle location data are made freely available to smartphone application developers, including the mobile app “Transit,” which is available for both Android and iOS devices.