CTtransit and First Transit Partnership Brings First Bus Rapid Transit to Connecticut

DSC_0112Transit agencies around the world are confronted with the challenges of population growth, congestion, unmet service needs and limited capital funding. Standing at the forefront of innovative solutions to these issues, First Transit is partnering with the Connecticut Department of Transportation to manage the state’s first Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) System – CTfastrak.

CTtransit is the brand name for State-owned bus transit operations in Connecticut.  Since 1979, First Transit and its predecessor companies have been contracted by CTDOT to operate their fixed-route bus transit systems in the Hartford, New Haven, and Stamford regions.

CTfastrak is the showpiece of the Hartford regional system, with a new fleet of specially branded diesel-electric hybrid buses serving ten stations along a 9.2 mile exclusive bus-only guideway between downtown Hartford and New Britain.  The new high-tech, high-capacity transit service began revenue service in April, 2015 and had already carried its millionth passenger in less than six months.

First Transit’s management team at CTtransit has been involved in the planning of CTfastrak dating back to the original idea for service in 1997, when the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT), along with Central Connecticut Regional Planning Agency (CCRPA) began a study to investigate a variety of highways and transit improvements to improve mobility and congestion along I-84 corridor west of downtown Hartford. The communities included in the study were Bristol, Cheshire, Hartford, New Britain, Manchester, Newington, Southington, Waterbury and West Hartford. The conclusion of the study confirmed that Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) was the preferred alternative to address traffic congestion and promote Transit Oriented Development in the corridor and beyond.

Construction of the busway stations and guideway began in 2012.  First Transit was recognized as one of the partner firms involved in the project at the official ribbon-cutting to inaugurate operations at last February. The First Transit management team for CTtransit consists of a General Manager and five Assistant General Managers.  All were closely involved with CTDOT and their project consultants in planning CTfastrak service.

First Transit’s focus on safety has been and will continue to be instrumental to the success of the CTfastrak project. In preparation of the opening of CTfastrak, 120 additional full-time bus operators were hired, as well as additional supervisory staff for the Busway Operations Command Center, fare inspectors and maintenance personnel. Because CTfastrak is operated as an integral part of the Hartford Division system, all operators needed special training on the busway, including specific training on docking buses safely at high platform stations. First Transit management was closely involved in developing and implementing safety protocols for busway operations and for training of operators, supervisors, dispatchers, and other staff.First Transit will continue to provide the support needed for safety and training.

Key features of CTfastrak in which the First Transit management team was closely involved include include a suite of Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) technology on buses and at staions and a new fare technology system that will eventually introduce mobile fare payment and account-based smart cards systemwide.   Other features of CTfastrak include wi-fi on buses, off-board fare payment with proof-of-purchase verification, variable message signage with next-bus information at stations, and state-of-the-art security measures. First Transit is dedicated to the future success of CTfastrak, with plans to lead the Governor’s announced initiative to extend BRT service into the corridor east of downtown Hartford starting in mid-2016, using High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes on I-84 and other ITS applications in high density arterial roadways  With the addition of CTfastrak and the management services of First Transit, CTtransit has become one of America’s premier transit systems. The premium transit service offers convenience, speed and comfort for its passengers and has significantly improved the travel times through heavily-congested areas throughout Connecticut.

David Lee, First Transit’s General Manager for CTtransit and Area Vice President for the New England region, stated, “We are proud of our long-term partnership with CTDOT and are excited to be an integral part of the successful development and operation of CTfastrak.  First Transit’s experienced, knowledgeable personnel, coupled with our industry-leading safety and training programs have created a solid foundation for success.”

I started riding CTfastrak in June of 2015 and really like it. With a bus coming every 15 minutes, I don’t have to wait long. The new stations are spacious and clean. I don’t have to worry about my kids being in a dangerous setting with cars and other traffic. I’m now able to get to different shopping centers; I didn’t have that convenience before.”

- Bernice Velazquez, Passenger