Hart­ford Line beats ex­pec­ta­tions

634K rid­ers in the rail line’s first year of oper­a­tion

The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT) - - FRONT PAGE - By Ed Stan­nard

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].”

Ed Stan­nard / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

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.

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