Empty buses test new CT Fastrak system

CT Fastrak bus (WTNH)

NEW BRITAIN, Conn. (WTNH)- It cost around a half a billion dollars to build a 9.4 mile roadway that is only for buses. The concept for CT Fastrak was debated for years in Hartford. For three hours this morning, we saw empty buses run their routes as a test. There is still the question of just how full those buses will be when real service begins.

Before the sun was up, the first buses ever rolled down the bus-only roadway known as CT Fastrak. This is kind of a dress rehearsal. There were no passengers on board, but for the first time all the buses were running all their routes. They pulled up to the raised platforms at the actual stations, not just driving training routes.

“They’re in training on their own with a trainer on board,” explained Michael Sanders of the Connecticut Department of Transportation. “Here they have the full scale of operation. There will be buses passing each other in the station, so it really gives us a chance to see what it will be like in the real world.”

Other drivers in the real world also have to get used to the buses because the busway crosses several other streets. Those intersections were reconfigured with new traffic signals. The idea behind a busway is, those buses won’t get stuck in highway traffic, and more people riding the bus means less traffic.

“What we hope is that provides a reliable alternative for folks who won’t ride on 84 as often because we give a reliable ride on it,” Sanders said. “It gives a better ride to our existing customers along the whole corridor.”

Getting all those cars off the road is good for the environment. In fact, Fastrak is supposed to as green as possible. The buses are super-low-emission diesel-electric hybrids. The streetlights are LEDs, and the roof of the downtown New Britain station is covered in solar panels.

CT Fastrak is nine and a half miles long, going from downtown New Britain to downtown Hartford. There are 11 stops, and most of those connect with other bus routes. There is even a walking and biking trail alongside part of the busway. The total cost is around half a billion dollars. The state thinks that, by the year 2030, 16 thousand people might ride it every day.

“We’re not looking for those 16,000 riders on the first day, or even a couple of months in” Sanders said. “What we are looking for, as kind of a gauge of our success is, if we’re between 10-12,000 riders a day by the end of this calendar year, I think we’d be pleased that we’re starting to make a dent in that market.”

Today’s test went pretty well. One bus did break down. Dispatchers got practice in scrambling a replacement bus. The first day carrying passengers will be Saturday, March 28th.

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