Hartford Line beats expectations
634K riders in the rail line’s first year of operation
NEW HAVEN — The Hartford Line, carrying rail passengers between New Haven and Springfield, Mass., for a year, has surpassed its projected ridership, state officials said Monday at Union Station.
Launched June 16, 2018, with a free weekend of service, the line saw more than 634,000 riders in its first year, 50,500 more than the projected 583,500, according to information from the state Department of Transportation.
“That’s hundreds of thousands of fewer car trips back and forth,” said Gov. Ned Lamont, “reducing pollution of cars that would be stalled out” on Interstate 91. Combined with Metro-North into New York and Shore Line East service to New
London, Lamont said, “as Mayor [Toni] Harp said, New Haven is to be the transit hub of this state.”
Harp said the line underscored “New Haven’s vital place … for everything from food and fun to finding jobs. … For those who want to enroll or visit one of the colleges or universities here or enjoy one of New Haven’s fine restaurants … New Haven is just a train ride away.”
Besides the convenience and reduced pollution and traffic, the Hartford Line has brought transit-oriented “residential and commercial development all along the line,” said Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, including new apartments in New Haven within walking distance of Union Station and the State Street station; the Parker Place apartments in Wallingford; “the new apartments, hundreds of them, that are being built along the Meriden Green”; and similar development in Berlin, Windsor and Windsor Locks.
“If you want to bring millennials to Connecticut, keep increasing public transportation,” Bysiewicz said. “This is what Connecticut’s
future is all about.”
According to a state DOT press release, about 1,400 residential units and 242,000 square feet of commercial and office space are being built or designed because of the Hartford Line.
State Transportation Commissioner Joseph Giulietti said, “I can safely say it has been a resounding success on every level.”
One area that has not met the state’s goals, however, was on-time performance. Between July 2018 and April, the Hartford Line met it 93 percent goal only in March, but aside from a major dip in November generally has improved over the past year, according to DOT figures.
The service is jointly run by Amtrak and Transit America Service Inc. and was estimated to cost the state and federal governments $36.7 million in the fiscal year that will end June 30. That includes $7.2 million in revenue and $43.9 million in expenses, not including expenses to start the service.
Responding to complaints from Shore Line East riders that engines have been moved to the Hartford Line, resulting in Shoreline commuters having to take buses to and from New Haven, Giulietti
said, “There were some growing pains in getting the Hartford Line started. … We are looking at both getting the cars for the Shoreline service and the Hartford service,” as well as improving the Waterbury and Danbury branches of Metro-North.
The next goal is to improve high-speed rail service between Springfield and Boston.
“I’m speaking to Gov. [Charles] Baker about it and it’s something that’s important to both of us,” Lamont said.
He said he hoped service would be improved “with all the modern conveniences to allow you to work to and from” destinations.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said the federal government needs to support expanding highspeed rail service.
“Railroads can remake America. … Their stations are magnets for growth,” he said.
“Here is a message to Donald Trump and his secretary of transportation [Elaine Chao],” Blumenthal said. “Come to Connecticut to see what works. We need to complete the next step in this high-speed rail [system].”
Gov. Ned Lamont speaks about the first year of the Hartford Line train service between New Haven and Springfield, Mass., on Monday at Union Station in New Haven.