The Connecticut Public Transportation Commission has released its 2012 Annual Report containing nine recommendations for improving public transportation services in Connecticut. The Commission, an advisory body comprised of gubernatorial and legislative appointees, submitted its Annual Report at year’s end to the Governor, the Transportation Committee of the General Assembly and the Commissioner of Transportation. The recommendations contained in its Annual Report are based on information from the five public hearings the Commission held across the state in 2012 and in its twelve monthly meetings. The Commission’s 2012 public hearings were held in Waterbury, Bridgeport, Storrs, Winsted and Windsor.
In light of the importance of public transportation in allowing Connecticut’s residents, especially low-income residents, to reach employment sites, and noting that many of Connecticut’s public transportation systems have experienced substantial gains in ridership, the Commission’s first recommendation stresses the importance of maintaining adequate funding to support existing transit services.
The Commission’s second recommendation advocates the relocation of the Windsor Locks railroad station from its current location south of town to the town-preferred location at or adjacent to the historic downtown train station. The downtown site would offer greatly enhanced opportunities for transit-oriented development and for non-motorized access from residential areas near that site.
The Commission also advocates more effective marketing and information concerning existing transit services to better inform the public of the transit options already available, thereby maximizing both ridership and the public benefit realized from the investment that has been made in transit service.
The restoration of previously cut funding for the state matching grant program that supports municipally-funded dial-a-ride services was recommended by the Commission to help meet the mobility needs of elderly and disabled residents and to foster their ability to live independently. The vast majority of Connecticut’s municipalities participate in this program.
Rail issues are the focus of the next three Commission recommendations. The Commission advocates the state’s close involvement in a 3-year federal study of infrastructure and service upgrades along Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor to assure that Connecticut’s interests are included in the study. State cooperation with an on-going effort by the Housatonic Railroad to develop a privately-run, unsubsidized passenger rail service between Danbury and Pittsfield was recommended in the Annual Report’s sixth recommendation. The next recommendation thanked the Department of Transportation for sponsoring a successful bond request for funds to demolish the abandoned, State-owned ‘SNET’ building at the Waterbury train station. The demolition of this building is a prerequisite for other improvements to the station.
The Commission’s eighth recommendation acknowledged DOT’s assistance on the development of a new bus storage and maintenance facility for the Windham Region Transit District to replace the outdoor lot that the District currently uses to store its vehicles. The Commission recommends that the plans for this facility add the capability to fuel vehicles onsite.
Lastly, the Commission asks for DOT’s assistance in making upgrades to its website to allow the public to post questions and comments.
Four other topics noted in the Commission’s Annual Report as a result of public testimony at its meetings and hearings were the inconsistent enforcement of smoking bans at New Haven Line railroad stations, the need for better communication to inform train riders when an incoming train has been switched to an alternate track, the need for more rest room facilities at train stations and bus hubs, and that the availability or lack of public transportation in a given area carry a greater weight in the decision-making process when land use and development decisions are made for new facilities, especially where clients, customers, workers or patients are likely to rely on public transportation.