Connecticut Commuting Comparisons
Some major insights worth consideration in commuting in Conneticut's major cities include: the development of the CTrides statewide program, the implementation of the New Hartford Railway Line, the expansion and upgrade of bus lines and routes, and a list of incentives to increase transit use for commuters. These are starkly contrasted to the current state of New York City's transit system which is seeing major degradation in critical areas, with plans for renovations and expansion of transit systems such as the bus routes not yet in the works. Some major trends seen in commuting in Connecticut include the increase of bike commuters with the help of city policies, and a rise in telework opportunities so that the number of commuters on the road is lowered.
Commuting In Connecticut
- CTrides is a free program the state of Connecticut offers that aids commuters in finding the best ways to and from work or school. The program provides choice commuting options throughout the state for carpools, bus, rail, biking, teleworking, and even walking, and offers resources and information for travel throughout the state with personalized routes.
- The state of Connecticut has conveniently placed hundreds of Park and Ride lots throughout their state that are free to use for daily parking for those commuting to and from work. At these lots commuters can catch the bus or share a carpool or vanpool.
- In contrast, New York's Park and Ride locations are "usually free," with occasional fees or permits or required. There are only "dozens of Park and Ride locations" in New York State compared to hundreds in Connecticut. Although their website has not been updated recently, a similar program to Conneticut's CTrides is the CommuterLink organization that acts as the "only transportation management" organization in New York City, only providing their free service to businesses and commuters in the five boroughs, as opposed to CTrides being statewide.
New Hartford Railway Line
- Conneticut's new Hartford Line is a commuter rail service that connects Springfield, Massachusetts, to New Haven, making eight stops along the Interstate 91 pathway. The railway is intended to be a catalyst for the state capital's transformation into a new age of industry and economy. The Hartford Line train is the first commuter rail to connecting the state's interior cities since 1968, and is only a part of a whole plan for new infrastructural developments.
- The Hartford Line's full run takes about an hour and 20 minutes, with the trip from Hartford to New Haven taking around 40 minutes. During weekday rush hours, trains leave about every 30 minutes. The rail service improves the vital connection of Hartford to New Haven and reduces overall traffic on Interstate 91, which is often congested.
- Prior Governor Dannel Malloy stated in 2018 that the amount of commuters using the railway continued to exceed projections and expectations, and that state officials have considered expanding the system to the suburbs east of Hartford and also to the University of Connecticut’s main campus located 25 miles away in Storrs.
- In 2016 the Stamford Transportation Center had over 8.4 million yearly commuters for Metro-North and 410,600 on Amtrak. The Stamford station is only second to Grand Central Terminal as the second busiest station in the entire Metro-North Railroad network, making up 21% of ridership on the New Haven Line.
- In contrast to the Hartford Line, New York's subway system is degrading and falling apart at a rapid pace, according to experts, with massive investments needed for repair and renewal of the system.
- Downtown Hartford is a small city of only 18 square miles across whose central core is very compact (you can walk across town in anywhere between 15 and 18 minutes) giving it great potential to gain significantly from the commuter railway and newly implemented Bus Rapid Transit lines. CTfastrak is the name of this Bus Rapid Transit system (the state's first) that connects cities using a roadway for buses only, with direct service to Cheshire, Waterbury, Bristol, Southington, New Britain, Plainville, West Hartford, Newington, Mancheste, and Hartford.
- The city aims to change the typical paradigm of a "car and parking dominated" downtown toward a city focused on pedestrians, biking, bus lines, and the commuter rail, all of which are concentrated downtown. The city has also rid of parking minimums almost completely, opening up opportunities for greater commuter reliance on transit—"the most ambitious move of its kind nationally," according to Hartford’s Sara Bronin, the city's planning and zoning commission chair. She stated that the city aims to have investments spent on amenities that add real value to the city and community—"not oversized surface parking lots."
- New Haven is a walking friendly city in Conneticut with abundance of accessible sidewalks giving access to restaurants and stores, and also offering over 22 local bus routes for commuters. Many of these buses run every day of the week, connecting with other state subsidized bus services. The entire New Haven region is participating in a study of transit and motility called Move New Haven, a 16-month study seeking to improve access to educational institutions and jobs and institutions and to increase ridership by 25% in the next five years.
- The city of Stamford's Transportation Center is made up of major transportation companies such as Amtrak and Metro-North, as well as CT transit buses, Greyhound, and Peter Pan.
- As much as 60% or more of workers in Stamford travel less than 25 minutes to get to work each day. The many residents who commute to New York and other locales are able to use the Stamford Transportation Center, being the largest train station in Connecticut in revenue. CT Transit also offers a bus system to locations within Stamford.
- The city of Stamford recently completed Phase 1 of the Stamford Urban Transitway, a project to address the traffic needs of today and the future. This project provided high occupancy vehicle lanes, travel lanes, bicycle lanes, bus priority lanes, and new sidewalks and landscaping.
- In contrast, New York residents of certain boroughs are fearing the loss of certain bus lines, with council members from Queens recently opposing a plan to overhaul their bus network until significant changes are made ensuring more extensive service, especially in noted public “transportation deserts.” Residents of Queens have complained about a lack of express bus service and the proposed cuts in routes through neighborhoods that do not have subway service, as well as plans that would rid of bus service in other specific locations.
- Commuters can earn discounts and incentives through the Transit Rewards Program when they ride CTfastrak, the Hartford Line, or Shore Line East. These incentives are earned just by showing your transit ticket, or a coupon that can be downloaded on their website, providing discounts and rewards at participating retailers, restaurants, special events, and more.
- The State of Connecticut offers a Commuter Tax Benefit that will provide employees the amount of their monthly commuting cost for transit and parking up to monthly limits. By using these pre-tax dollars for commuting, employees are saving up to 40%.
- As of now, employees can use up to $270 a month for transit, with the same amount for related parking costs. By businesses offering their employees a commuter benefit program, the cost of travel deducted for employees lowers the overall payroll being taxed, allowing savings of up to 7.65% on average. Companies gain greater savings through more employees participating.
- The only incentive found in New York City for commuters in contrast is the Commuter Benefits Law that took effect on January 1, 2016. For-profit and nonprofit employers under this law with 20 or more full-time employees in New York City must offer them opportunities to utilize the pre-tax income in order to purchase certain qualified transportation benefits.
- Average commuter times for the major cities in Connecticut are as follows, with the national ranking of each one: Norwalk 26.9 minutes at #12,037, Stamford 23.9 minutes at #16,753, Hartford 23.2 minutes at #17,836, and New Haven 21.4 minutes at #20,336.
- A recent report looked at the commute times of the 150 largest metro areas in the U.S. according to four criteria: the average one way time, average time spent in congested traffic, road conditions, and bridge conditions. New York City ranked as the worst of all, with average one way commutes of almost 36 minutes and an even more time spent in congestion with an average of 89.4 hours each year.
Connecticut Commuting Trends
Increased Bicycle Commuting
- In 2015, the city of Stamford designated certain roads as permitted for both bike and automobiles, stating that all users must share the road. A $250,000 pedestrian and bike study was commissioned to develop future bike and pedestrian safety plans as the city grows.
- In 2014 the Stamford Street Smart Initiative was implemented as a campaign for public safety and awareness that helped launch the Bike to Work Day to help encourage commuters to use their bike, walk, or take public transportation. The city is also a part of a 3,000 mile bike and walking trail known as the East Coast Greenway, connecting 15 states and 450 cities. A bike-sharing program is also in the works, as the city partners with Zagster and other local corporations enabling their employees to bike to work or other areas from the train station.
- With the city of Stamford embracing a more bicycle friendly and pedestrian city design, they were recently named one of "The Best NYC Commuter Towns for Car-Free Living in 2017" by Curbed. The city has added bike hitches to parking meters throughout, and expanded the amount of designated bike lanes.
- New Haven is also a flat and compact city, making biking an optimal mode of transportation. The city is becoming increasingly bike friendly as both the city and advocates work to build the culture and infrastructure for cyclists.
- The League of American Bicyclists in 2014 recognized New Haven as "Bronze Level Bicycle-Friendly Community", and in 2018 raised the city to the Silver Level. Leadership in 2015 led the passage of SB 502, the "Bike Bill," opening the way for the State of Connecticut to grant New Haven $1.2 Million to build the first protected two-way bike lane in the state. The city also chose New Haven Smart Mobility in order to bring bike share to the city in 2017.
Rise In Telework
- Telework is an agreement between employees and their workplace allowing the employee to work at a satellite office, at home, or another approved location on certain work days. CTrides also offers totally free comprehensive guidance and council for businesses in their design, development, and implementing of these custom telework programs.
- Connecticut has recognized the benefits of Telework through their Connecticut General Statutes Section 5-248i, with an Interim Telework Program through the State Employee Bargaining Agent Coalition that will apply to specifically identified classifications.
- The benefits that employers are seeing with the adoption of telecommuting are an increase of productivity by 10-20%, business continuity during construction and emergencies, 25-90% savings on overhead (with employees not requiring permanent office space), and improved recruitment and retention rates, with 50-65% of employees stating that the ability to telework as important to them for their jobs.
- The environmental and community benefits of Conneticut's expanding telework program include accomplishing such aims as the reduction of traffic congestion, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and credit toward Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certifications.
- According to a recent source, Connecticut ranked #24 in the nation of states with the most full-time telecommuters at an average of 4.6%.