All aboard new com­muter train line

The Register Citizen (Torrington, CT) - - FRONT PAGE - Jim Cameron COM­MEN­TARY

There’s fi­nally some good news on trans­porta­tion: A new com­muter rail line — The Hart­ford Line — is set to open soon.

Decades in the dream­ing and years in the plan­ning, the sta­te­owned com­muter line will run 17 trains each week­day be­tween New Haven and Hart­ford, stop­ping at State Street in New Haven, Walling­ford, Meri­den, Ber­lin and Union Sta­tion in down­town Hart­ford. Twelve trains on week­days will con­tinue north, stop­ping at Wind­sor and Wind­sor Locks be­fore end­ing in Spring­field, Mass.

Park­ing will be free — at least un­til the fall — at Ber­lin, Walling­ford and Meri­den. When ser­vice ex­pands, there will be a train ev­ery 30 min­utes in peak hours and ev­ery 60 min­utes off-peak. In parts of the 62-mile run, the trains will hit speeds of 110 mph, com­pared to the 79mph max that Am­trak reaches.

Some of the runs will use Am­trak equip­ment, but all trains will honor new, lower Con­necti­cut rail fares. While Am­trak charges as much as $47 one way from New Haven to Spring­field, all trains on The Hart­ford Line will sell tick­ets for just $12.75 for the same trip. New Haven to Hart­ford will be just $8.

There will be the usual dis­counts for se­niors, 10-trip and monthly com­muters.

Those fares, cou­pled with free park­ing and a mas­sive mar­ket­ing cam­paign, should lure road-weary com­muters off In­ter­state-91 and onto the rails. At least that’s the hope, and there’s a lot of money rid­ing on this plan.

Con­necti­cut got lucky in 2011 when Florida Gov. Rick Scott turned down fed­eral money for mass tran­sit in his state and we quickly grabbed the fund­ing. Mil­lions were spent dou­ble track­ing the line and build­ing beau­ti­ful new sta­tions, which are hoped to be the cat­a­lyst for tran­sit-ori­ented de­vel­op­ment nearby.

Also new is the rail­road’s oper­at­ing agency. The state Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion by­passed Am­trak, which op­er­ates Shore Line East and still owns the tracks for The Hart­ford Line, and went with Tran­sItAmer­ica Ser­vices and Al­ter­nate Con­cepts, a joint ven­ture that won the five-year, $45 mil­lion op­er­a­tions con­tract.

In­sid­ers say they’ve got a wait­ing list of job ap­pli­cants for con­duc­tors and en­gi­neers, most of them Am­trak and Metro-North vet­er­ans fed-up with their ex­pe­ri­ences with those com­pa­nies. The new op­er­a­tors prom­ise great cus­tomer ser­vice. Com­pared to Am­trak and Metro-North, there’s nowhere to go but up.

One big dis­ap­point­ment is that the train ser­vice will start, not with shiny new rail cars, but hand-me-downs from MBTA in Mas­sachusetts. The orig­i­nal plan was that Metro-North’s elec­tric-pow­ered M8 cars would be run­ning on Shore Line East by now, free­ing up that line’s diesel push pulled equip­ment to run on The Hart­ford Line. But that hasn’t hap­pened, so the state DOT went scram­bling look­ing for rail cars, which are in short sup­ply na­tion­ally.

What they got were 16 cars, each 30 years old, which have been re­ha­bil­i­tated and “deep cleaned” in­side and out and given the Fed­eral Rail­road As­so­ci­a­tion’s stamp of ap­proval to run. They’ll be fine for now and even­tu­ally The Hart­ford Line will get its own new rail­cars.

Start date should be late May, but I’d pre­fer they wait un­til ev­ery­thing is per­fect rather than rush to open on time and dis­ap­point rid­ers in any way.

Courtesy of state Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion

The Hart­ford Line, a new com­muter rail line from New Haven to Spring­field, Mass., will use re­fur­bished cars from MBTA in Mas­sachusetts.

State Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion / Con­trib­uted photo

The Hart­ford Line, a new com­muter rail line from New Haven to Spring­field, Mass., will use re­fur­bished cars from MBTA in Mas­sachusetts.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.