Mass transit improvements coming to Connecticut – but so are service cuts

The Connecticut Department of Transportation leaders unveiled the new Customer Experience Action Plan at the Meriden train station. It lists dozens of current and future upgrades, based on a year-long survey of 10,000 bus and train riders.

John Craven

Jun 26, 2023, 9:54 PM

Updated 293 days ago

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The Connecticut Department of Transportation announced a “road map” of major mass transit upgrades on Monday. But there's a catch. It comes just as DOT is cutting service on the Metro-North and Shore Line East rail lines.
“CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE ACTION PLAN”
DOT leaders unveiled the new Customer Experience Action Plan at the Meriden train station. It lists dozens of current and future upgrades, based on a year-long survey of 10,000 bus and train riders.
Riders like Nai Thompson, of New Haven, don't have a car. She said CT Transit bus routes are too sporadic, and they don't run late enough.
“They suck,” she said. “If I had my job out in New Haven, and I had to get back to Middletown, the buses stop running at, like, 7:00. And if I had a job that was later than seven, I would have to find a ride back up here.”
The new Action Plan calls for upgraded bus stops, and routes coordinated with train schedules. CT Transit has already extended more than a dozen bus lines until 1 a.m.
As for the rails, Metro-North has already added express trains from New Haven, and is planning faster speeds along the New Canaan branch, as well through Bridgeport and Stratford. The plan also calls for upgraded electronic displays and possibly adding Wi-Fi – something commuters have wanted for years.
SERVICE CUTS
But at the same time, DOT is cutting train service along Metro-North and Shore Line East. The new state budget cut funding by tens of millions of dollars for fiscal year 2024, which begins Friday, because ridership still hasn't caught up to pre-pandemic levels.
Despite the service cuts, DOT Commissioner Garrett Eucalitto believes the upgrades make sense.
“When you have uncertainty on a yearly basis around how many people are coming back to the system, the best thing to do is invest in the system you have today,” he said.
Eucalitto said the DOT is now working with the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA), which actually operates Metro-North trains, to create a proposed schedule. Monday and Friday service is likely to see the deepest cuts.
The budget restores full funding to Metro-North in July 2024. Top lawmakers hope the improvements will lure riders back.
“I think with some of these customer experience action plans, once they're put in place, it's just only going to enhance the customer's experience,” said state Sen. Christine Cohen (D-Guilford), co-chair of the Legislature’s Transportation Committee. “And thereby, increase ridership.”
But it’s unclear if ridership levels will ever return to 2019 levels. Many employees are only commuting to New York City a few days per week. A new Metro-North schedule is expected to take effect by Columbus Day, he said.


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