August 21, 2014

Like it or not, Bristol should seize busway opportunity

When the argument about whether to build the busway between New Britain and Hartford raged, Bristol's officials mostly lined up firmly against it. They argued that the $575 million busway would do nothing for Bristol.
When Gov. Dannel Malloy opted to plunge forward with the new bus-only road, Bristol carped from the sidelines and placed its hope in a $1 million commuter rail study that appears to be stalled on some abandoned tracks somewhere.
Meanwhile the busway is drawing ever closer to completion. By next year, it will be operating.
Whether that's a good thing or a bad one doesn't really matter now. What does matter is that Bristol find some way to take advantage of its existence.
Aside from a few folks with extremely rosy glasses, there's a wide consensus that the new line is going to have a hard time drawing the number of passengers projected. True or not, the state is going to be trying to up the use, because it makes sense, given the buses running up and down the 9.1-mile route all day and much of the night.
That's an opportunity for Bristol.
Though officials never talk about it in public, they should be eyeing ways to help commuters reach the busway and use it. It's foolish to ignore it, particularly since the state might be willing to help upgrade the availability and quality of the buses serving Bristol commuters.
It's not hard to imagine a new "station" of some sort, perhaps at the mall site, which isn't getting used for anything else. It's got plenty of parking and a little bus shelter with some style might actually improve the place a bit. It would certainly bring more folks downtown.
No doubt there are lots of other ideas out there. The city should be talking about them, at every relevant board meeting and to anyone who might be able to help. The public will be skeptical, of course, but even busway foes aren't stupid. Let's see how this costly new transit system can boost Bristol. 

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