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A Circulator Bus For Convention Center

August 3, 2005
By JEFFREY B. COHEN, Courant Staff Writer

A downtown circulator bus is likely to be running for two of the convention center's busiest months this fall, an effort that could be a jump-start to a permanent bus service, state and federal officials said Tuesday.

"We're going to get these things running for those two months where we need it, and at the same time work on the permanent funding for the operating budget," said Dean Pagani, spokesman for the Capital City Economic Development Authority.

The downtown Hartford circulator would be a free service and would hit the city's major cultural and hospitality sites. Under a tentative plan, the route would include stops at the Connecticut Convention Center, the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, the Civic Center, the Goodwin Hotel, the Holiday Inn Express, Union Station, the Church Street parking garage, the Hartford Hilton, the MAT Garage, the Crowne Plaza Hotel, the Morgan Street Garage, the Marriott Downtown and the convention center.

Although state legislators made the goal of a year-round circulator a hard one to reach this year when they did not give CCEDA the funding it requested, federal legislators secured $3.4 million for buses and bus-related facilities for the circulator program in the recently passed transportation bill.

So, now that the money for the equipment is lined up, state officials wanted to come up with the money to make the equipment run.

"We didn't get money to do this," said Michael Sanders, the transit administrator for the Department of Transportation. "We're looking to absorb it within our existing budget."

The bus service will run a route that is still being finalized, and it will do so every day but Sunday, from about 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sanders said. With three buses, the goal is to have riders wait no longer than 10 minutes for a bus, he said.

This "demonstration" service will operate in September and October at a total cost of $77,000, Sanders said. Over the course of a year, this same level of service would cost about $500,000, Sanders said.

"We're going to put this out, see what happens, and see what comments we get back," he said. "We'll see what the demands are, what the market is really asking for."

Lizabeth Hall, a spokeswoman for U.S. Rep. John B. Larson, D-1st District, said the congressman has been pushing for the federal funding and is looking for the service to succeed.

"They had done a lot of work getting the federal funding and they wanted to make sure that this actually happened," Pagani said, referring to the work of Larson's office.

In September and October, the city will host several "city-wide" conventions, the type that bring roughly 1,000 people and that use several downtown hotels. They include conventions of the following organizations: the Federal Highway Administration-Eastern Snow and Ice Expo; the International Christian Association; the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics; the National Science Teachers; the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities; and a medical, pharmaceutical and biotech manufacturers conference called Beacon Medi 2005.

"The circulator will enable attendees to meetings and conventions to see the rest of the city," said H. Scott Phelps, executive director of the Greater Hartford Convention and Visitors Bureau. "This is a way for ... delegate spending to reach out throughout the downtown area."

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.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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