More than 40 people crowded into a small room in the Student Union to hear a public presentation on Tuesday that gauged interest in expanding the CTfastrak bus service to include the University of Connecticut.
CTfastrak’s service would be expanded to connect Storrs with Manchester and Hartford by this summer and possibly even farther by 2017 and 2018.
“We do not know exactly what it is we want to do yet,” Department of Transportation (DOT) transit manager Lisa Rivers said. “Right now we want to gauge where the demand is.”
Attendees were asked to fill out a questionnaire, ranking the DOT’s preliminary proposals. The proposals take into consideration a route on Interstate 384 and Route 44, or an express route using Interstate 84 and Route 195.
“Expanding CTfastrak service to UConn would not only benefit our campus community, but could also encourage more Greater Hartford residents to consider working, studying, and visiting here,” UConn President Susan Herbst said in a news release. “This is an idea that deserves our wholehearted support, and is one which we fully endorse.
UConn officials have worked closely with the DOT, Rivers said, but there is no money in the DOT budget for the expansion.
“We don’t have any more vehicles to expand the service with,” Rivers said. “When we do expand I am going to have to lease vehicles and they will not have the same technology that are attractive to consumers.”
Rivers refers to intelligent transportation systems that allow buses to control stoplights, provide real time updates on the buses locations and other perks.
Current CTfastrak buses run from as early as 4:30 a.m. to as late as 12:45 a.m., but preliminary proposals show that the new bus would not leave Storrs until 9 a.m.
The DOT does not have enough buses to run buses during rush hour, so most of the buses will have to run at off-peak hours until new buses are purchased in 2017.
Meagan Self, an eighth-semester student in the School of Nursing, commutes from Storrs to Hartford Hospital three days a week.
“The majority of [nursing students] are expected to be on hospital units at 6:30 a.m.,” Self said. “I am unsure if the bussing system would be available at early hours for timely and reliable transport.”
The service would not be free for students, but Rivers imagines that UConn and the DOT could work out a deal.
“We have our U-Pass system in place with Eastern Connecticut College,” Rivers said. “I am sure we could do something similar with UConn.”
U-Pass is in use at many universities around the United States. It offers lower fairs for riders with a student identification.
“One of the issues we run into being so far from the cities is that there are talented employees who would like to work here, but transportation becomes a barrier for them,” UConn spokeswoman Stephanie Reitz said. “This would be great for our students and staff, so we are supporting the DOT however possible.”
An additional informational session will be held in Student Union Room 106-A Wednesday at noon.
Jon Hull is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.