CT: Hartford's CTfastrak bus system ranks No. 1 in the nation, according to an international group

May 20, 2024
An international nonprofit that evaluates BRT systems placed CTfastrak in the top spot.

May 16—HARTFORD — The region's bus rapid transit system, CTfastrak, is the best in the country according to a ranking from the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy.

The institute, which is an international nonprofit promoting sustainable transportation worldwide, runs an ongoing ranking for bus rapid transit (BRT) systems globally. Cities are not reevaluated annually unless they make significant updates, according to the institute. As of 2023, Hartford still sits atop the list.

"They should absolutely be totally proud of the system that they have," said Aimee Gauthier, chief knowledge officer at The Institute. "Because it's pretty awesome."

The CTfastrak, previously called the Hartford-New Britain Busway, is an express transit system that connects Hartford to New Britain via designated bus lanes, allowing the buses to avoid traffic. Hartford City Councilman and resident Josh Michtom, who says he takes CTfastrak often, described the service as "a train, but it's a bus."

"I can look at my phone, I can check work emails, I can do more things," Michtom said. "You don't have to think about traffic at all. So it is just free time to do whatever."

Hartford scored a 79.2 out of 100 on the institute's scale, making it one of only two systems on the list to get a "silver" designation. Among the top 50 bus systems in the rankings, Hartford is the only one from the U.S. The other top bus rapid transit systems are concentrated in Central and South America.

CTfastrak is operated by the state Department of Transportation, which applauded the service for its impact on the area in a statement.

"After nearly a decade in operation, the CTfastrak has transformed Greater Hartford's transportation network as it provides convenient and reliable bus service to thousands of riders on an average weekday," said DOT spokesperson Joe Cooper. "The CTfastrak has also spurred new housing, shopping, and employment destinations along the system's bus-only roadway between New Britain and Hartford."

Gauthier outlined several features that made Hartford a high scorer, including the quality of the stations, the routing, and the ways in which the system is integrated with local bus service and biking amenities.

"And it is one of the few systems in the U.S. to have passing lanes, which allows for multiple types of services to be offered," Gauthier said.

Hartford is significantly smaller than many of the other cities on the list, but Gauthier explained that it made up for a smaller budget with creativity. While it couldn't afford to make a transit app specific to the bus, the DOT did release its General Transit Feed Specification data, which allows people to use services like Google Maps to track their ride.

She also said they have managed to make boarding and departing safer by narrowing the gap between the bus and the platform.

"They piloted this rubber bumper to help buses dock more closely, so you've reduced the gap between the bus and the platform," Gauthier said. "They've done some really good innovation."

Michtom said that his trips from Hartford to New Britain are comparable with a car, depending on traffic the car may face. He said the trips from Hartford to New Britain on transit are much easier than trying to use regular buses to get to other cities that do not connect to CTfastrak.

"If you compare that to the bus to Middletown from Hartford, it takes twice as long as driving because it has to swing off the main busy roads, make stops, pick up passengers," Michtom said.

Both Michtom and Gauthier said they believe public transportation like this is the future.

"In cities like Hartford where the streets are narrow and we always have closures and detours for construction, to have a route that cuts through all of that is magical, frankly," Micthom said. "It achieves what subways achieve at a much lower cost."


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