January 24, 2008

Commuter rail for Bristol?

A new rail commuter line is among the items that Bristol leaders agreed to pursue Thursday.
“I’d love it. I really would,” Mayor Art Ward said.
Ward met in his office with the city’s legislative delegation to work out a common agenda for the upcoming legislative session, with everyone agreeing to try to grab more money for Bristol’s wish list.
“It was good to see the delegation come together” with Mayor Art Ward to work out a common agenda to boost Bristol and Forestville’s needs, said state Rep. Frank Nicastro, a Democrat whose 79th District includes the southern third of the city.
Though most of the issues they discussed have been batted around for years, the prospect of a commuter rail line reaching the city is something that hasn’t received much attention for decades.
“I’d like to see that brought to light,” Nicastro said. He said it would make Bristol more accessible.
Ward said he would like to a rail line for commuters to use to go to Hartford or Waterbury, or both.
With the high price of gasoline and new downtown development looming, the timing may be right, Ward said. If energy prices keep rising, he said, “there might not be a choice. It would provide for conservation.”
Nicastro said that it would be up to state transportation experts to put the issue on the front burner, but a push from Bristol might help.
Ward said, “I would think it would be worthy of looking into.”
He said that he and his wife took a train from Berlin to Quantico, Va. not long ago. The ride was great, Ward said.
Ward said there hasn’t been a passenger train serving Bristol in “a long, long time,” but perhaps it can come back.
Another issue that Nicastro and Ward each said deserves attention is the Riverside Avenue gateway to downtown.
The mayor said that maybe the state can apply pressure on Yankee Gas to spruce up its work yard at the eastern approach to Memorial Boulevard, a goal the city has long sought without much success.
Ward said he wants the former Trudon Trucking property on Downs Street to return to its natural state. A former blight target, it has been partially cleaned up but nothing has been done with it for years.
All of the city’s legislators were present for the Thursday session, including Nicastro; state Sen. Tom Colapietro, a Bristol Democrat who represents the 31st District; and state Reps. Bill Hamzy, R-78, Ron Burns, R-77, and Betty Boukus, D-22.

The city’s wish list for the year
*Keep Route 72 extension on track
*Secure funding for downtown revitalization
*Stay on top of possibility of converting courthouse to juvenile courthouse
*Get funding for Riverside Avenue gateway to downtown, including the area at the eastern end of Memorial Boulevard
*Make sure school bonding stays on track
*Maximize education funding
*Seek state support for commuter rail line in Bristol
*Try for state help for anti-flooding efforts
*Get funding for Rockwell Park renovations
*Seek low-interest state loans for businesses interested in the new industrial park

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com


Bob Merrick said...

This is a good idea. A rail connection to Hartford coupled with a successful downtown revitalization plan would be an incentive for residents interested in a reduced-transportation environment to consider residing in Bristol. Not many communities have the infrastructure for rail service.

Mass transit access will definitely be an important consideration in the future as the population grows, traffic increases, and energy costs related to transportation become too costly.

Anonymous said...

Welcome to the past. I wish our public officials would stop wasting time and money on efforts that will never go anywhere.

Commuter rail, the dream of urban planners everywhere, is pure nostalgia. It works only when people go from high density areas to high density areas. Even then, it requires huge subsidies and high fares (a monthly ticket from Stamford to NYC is $264). Look at Metro-North. It works because (a) it is heavily subsidized, (b)operates in a high density areas, and (c) ties into a place, NYC, with a good public transit system. Even then door to door commutes are often measured in hours.

The simple fact is is that the number of commuters from Bristol to downtown Hartford will not justify either the construction cost or the operating subsidy even if you tie in additional stops.

But it gives our officials something to talk about.

Anonymous said...

Our society is too independant to abandon our vehicles to use public transporation of any kind no matter how high the cost of gas gets.

This is a pipe dream at best.

Anonymous said...

Mass transit is a great idea!! We need to look at rail, or light rail as a regional answer to transportation and growth issues. Why did the Bus route stop in NEw Britain? Shoud we look at extending that to Bristol? Transit oriented development is very big all around the country. Look at Fairfield and the economic boom to the immediate area around the new train station there.

Red Dot said...

I agree with Bob - I think that this is a fantastic idea, and would make our community even more desirable for private development. Any thing that can be done to increase the flow of consumer dollars into downtown is a positive. Additionally, even if this would make only a minimal environmental impact, it's a good start.

I'm frustrated that the article let's this play out as the Frank 'n' Artie Show. I'd love to hear what Reps. Burns and Hamzy have to say about this.

With support at the state level, it makes it far easier for us to obtain some federal funding as well. It would be nice if everyone could get their act together before the '08 Transportation Bill is drafted or CDBG dollars are awarded.

Any thoughts on how this would impact RFP's for the Mall?

Anonymous said...

if one reads the article, one would see that it involved the entire state delegation; stop manufacturing aggravation.

Anonymous said...

Hey .... Great idea ....

Pedestrians delivered to Bristol ....

PLEASE !!!!! Locate the train station within walking distance to downtown NOT say in Forestville Center ...

With the 'leadership' in Bristol , I felt it was necessary to point that out .

Anonymous said...

"I'm frustrated that the article let's..."

I'm frustrated that you can't write in English. It's "lets."
Did you go to school in Bristol or what?

Anonymous said...

All aboard!

Anonymous said...

As an early poster pointed out, this won't work financially. It is too expensive to build and operate.

I have an idea. Rather putting our hopes in a 19th century technology the rail, why not push for a 21st century technology?

Many of us work in service industries that can locate anywhere. All we need is a phone and computer. Lets work from home or satellite offices. This will significantly reducing commuting. And by keeping people in town all day, increase local expenditures (how much is spent out of town for lunch and on errands). Lets improve the information infrastructure and encourage employers to allow more work at home.

I know people will complain that not everyone will benefit equally. But how many people will benefit from a rail service that picks them up in a downtown and drops them off in another when most jobs and shopping are located elsewhere. And, it would be a lot cheaper than running a rail service.

red dot said...

I'm thrilled to see that I'm getting some feedback on my earlier remarks. I appreciate the grammar tips from the 11:18 poster. With your attention to detail I really would have thought that you had something substantive to add to the conversation...

To the blogger that was kind enough to point out that the entire delegation was present for the meeting, I appreciate the reminder. However, as a Republican, I was merely stating that I wish some of the Republican members of the delegation had commented to Steve on this idea. As he has mentioned many times before, he's pretty easy to find, and not terrible to talk to. I didn't take any shots at any one (if anything it was a bit of my frustration with my own party coming out.)

I think the 12:21 poster raises some good points; while I don't work from home, I envy those that do, and I think the city should find ways to drive those efforts. With the nearly absolute need for double-income households, I think government should encourage more options like this if for no other reason than it allows for kids to come home to a parent in the house. However, as someone who does office in Bristol, I struggle with the absence of things a commuter rail (or other development driver) could bring to town. I've got a good dry-cleaner here, Staples, and Starbucks. That's about it. When my boss or clients come to town, they're staying in Farmington or Southington. Time for a business dinner? West Hartford. If I need a new suit? Canton.

As has been mentioned on this blog before, we as city have a great deal to offer. Anything to make Bristol more visible to the rest of the region and state can only be seen as a positive.

I've run this through spell check, and I promise to be more careful going forward.

Anonymous said...

Mayor Ward is spending his honeymoon with Nicastro.

Anonymous said...

Gee Bob, more innovative ideas from someone else that you're trying to latch onto. Or perhaps you just want Ward to notice you?
Guess what? City officials were promoting this idea years ago.

Of course it's a good idea. The cost of personal transportation is almost guaranteed to rise in the future.

What exactly though is a "reduced transportation environment"? Perhaps you may create that by just merely destroying all the bridges (such as the Allies did during WW2)? May I refer to that phrase as "Bob-speak"?

Why would those interested in a "reduced transportation environment" care about downtown revitalization? It seems we're trying to improve and increase transportation not reduce it.

One thing is for sure...you're an idiot.

Anonymous said...

January 26, 2008 5:27 AM Poster,

So what's your plan?

Anonymous said...

Aint gonna happen: economics do not justify it.

Even if it was to be considered, and approved, it would be light years away.

Why not consider busses: more flexible, less infrastructure required, and provides more convenience for users.

As long as businesses are leaving Hartford, the "critical mass" becomes less and less.

Unless of course, there will a station in Blue Back Square.

Anonymous said...

Just that, a WISH list. (I wish to be reelected).

Anonymous said...

"So what's your plan?
January 26, 2008 8:46 AM"

I agree with former Mayor Nicastro, the City Planner, the Bristol planning Commission and now Mayor Ward that a community rail line from Hartford is a good idea. My idea ["plan" (sic)] would be to utilize the existing rail line through the city, which heads to Hartford that connects to Amtrak (it is a freight line, privately owned).

I am a resident who agrees that mass-public transportation is the way of the future due to the cost of energy. I am not however a resident as Bob Merrick descibes as one who is for a "reduced-transportation environment". That to me makes no sense because it would be an econmoic disaster (just as he would be if he was making public policy).

Bob Merrick said...

Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) is built on access to a transit center, ideally rail service. It works well with mixed use high-density development focused on pedestrian traffic and an urban center. There is reduced traffic in the core of the development. For the people living within this environment there is a reduced dependency on personal transportation.

Many small urban projects throughout the country are employing these types of development techniques and attracting residents and small businesses especially interested in living where they work.

Alan Weiner and many others spoke about the need and desirablity of many of these characteristics at the joint boards meeting held by the BDDC earlier this month.

All members of the community need to be involved in supporting the efforts of what is being done by our city officials.

I think the mayor meeting to discuss possible rail service is an excellent idea and could add value to the development of the site.

Anonymous said...

Right Bob that's because the BDDC is clue-less (except for those like Johnson and Ladovico who've been involved for years).

1) Have you read the 10 year plan (written in 2000) Bob? Perhaps you might read page 29? That's Policy #9 "Explore the potential for commuter rail service in Bristol".

2) You still haven't explained your statement "residents interested in a reduced-transportation environment". Are you one of those residents? What does that entail? Frankly the phrase alarms me.

3)You use this term "Transit-Oriented Development (TOD)" and state that it is for "high-density development focused on pedestrian traffic and an urban center". Well I don't see that as a description of Bristol commuters. In actuality there are commuter rail stops in sub-urban areas throughout the NYC and Philadelphia metro areas (as well as others I'm sure).

Quite frankly I think you do this research and through out these terms (that in some instances either make no sense or have no bearing on our local situation) in order to sound smart and educated. Do you really think people are going to want to take the train to Bristol center rather than their car to Westfarms?

Do you think that if the state allocates money for a commuter rail-way it'll only be for a line to and from Bristol? The idea is to make it possible for people to take the train rather than 84 to Hartford, etc., when and if the cost of personal transportation gets too expensive.

4) You say "All members of the community need to be involved in supporting the efforts of what is being done by our city officials". I don't necessarily agree with that. It sounds like Frank is a bit in a fog (he doesn't seem to remember the 10 year plan) and Ward sounds like he feels the idea is good but not too important. It sounds like you're in this chat-room (as usual) trying to promote yourself. I'd have to say it's not working 100%. And if we did as you say, we'd have a $60 million "taj mahal" in the downtown.

Anonymous said...

"Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) is built on access to a transit center, ideally rail service. It works well with mixed use high-density development focused on pedestrian traffic and an urban center"

Do we want this in Bristol? The downtown is dead Bob. Have you been on Farmington Avenue lately (the last 40 years)? It's busy as heck and guess what? No train line! Again I think the idea of a commuter rail for traffic in and out of Bristol is a good idea for the future. But I don't see it as a cure for the downtown's "marketing" problem. I agree with the "January 25, 2008 6:59 AM" poster. A case in point: Buffalo NY has a train line downtown that costs millions and really isn't effective. I'm sorry I really think the idea that a rail line into downtown will spur development is ludicrous.

Anonymous said...

We don't have to worry about "Transit-Oriented Development" or "a reduced-transportation environment" because this idea will never happen. The rail line in Bristol is a freight line that is privately owned and may never be available. This commuter line idea is just another pipe dream.

Anonymous said...

Yeah and if a Republican had offered the idea during the campaign they would have been critized for it..Where are you Dems now...

Anonymous said...

Can you see people in Hartford and West Hartford and Waterbury getting on the train to come to the new Mall in Brostol to do their shopping?

Or will it be the other way around??

Anonymous said...

Are any of these really new ideas?

Sounds like the start of a reelection campaign effort.