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Commuting: Better Bus Service Would Pay Off For Hartford

December 24, 2006

I've recently started riding the bus from the West End of Hartford to work at Pratt & Whitney on Main Street in East Hartford. I have found several problems with the bus system. However, within the problems I see solutions, not only for our bus system but for Hartford as well.

I started riding the bus twice a week because my wife and I are trying to get by with one car. Otherwise, like most Hartford area citizens, I wouldn't have started, and definitely would not continue. By car the commute to work takes 15 minutes. By bus I travel for an hour.

The bus trip is probably twice as long as it needs to be. One reason that commuting across the river takes so long is that the bus stops at EVERY corner. Accelerating, braking and idling are the most inefficient uses of fuel. If there was an occasional express bus that stopped at every other corner or every three corners, both fuel consumption and time of trip would drop considerably. I can't believe it would trouble many commuters to walk another block or two blocks to catch the bus. We could probably use the exercise.

Another reason my commute is so long is that I have to go all the way downtown to catch a second bus across the river. There could just as easily be a bus that connects the West End directly to East Hartford via I-84. It would really help tie two parts of the metro area together, and lessen congestion downtown.

Similarly there is no bus to connect the north side of Hartford with the south side unless you go downtown. Why isn't there a bus route along Prospect and New Park Avenues? Isn't the movie theater worthy of bus access?

Many parents would probably choose to send their kid by bus to the movies rather than chauffeuring them around like royalty.

A direct bus from the West End to Pratt & Whitney could also be a cornerstone of community development in Hartford. One of the city's biggest problems is that people don't live densely enough in most neighborhoods to support the small businesses such as quality grocers that make urban living a pleasure.

If the city and businesses such Pratt & Whitney managed to support construction of affordable, attractive housing in conjunction with more accommodating transit - so-called transit-oriented development - they could create a healthy density in some parts of the city and attract middle-class residents. This is envisioned for the New Britain to Hartford busway, but it could be done more quickly along existing bus routes.

As a young man who has lived in Europe and Costa Rica, I've seen how public transit really makes city life enjoyable. Ask any New Yorker. It makes you feel free when you can walk out of your front door and go where you need to go without getting in your car and competing with traffic. And not owning a car frees disposable income for the local economy.

There are other problems with bus service. There are too few benches or covered bus stops and many covered bus stops are missing the protective panes to shield travelers from the wind. Also, most bus stops aren't shoveled out when it snows. It makes me wonder if any city or CT Transit executives ever actually take the bus.

They can make life easier for a lot of citizens by solving these problems. Hartford needs an improved transit system. Not only is a working transit system a necessity for those who live here now, it is a great incentive for young people who might be thinking about moving to our region. A better transit system would make a huge difference for Greater Hartford.

Anton Rick-Ossen is a military repair development engineer and Pratt & Whitney Aircraft in East Hartford.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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