Residents in and around New Haven will soon benefit from a $25 million federal grant toward upgrades to the region’s public bus system to speed up transit in Connecticut’s third largest city and ease travel for historically underserved communities.
New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker and several members of Connecticut’s Congressional delegation announced on Thursday that the metro area was awarded the federal funds through a competitive grant known as the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity program, which was funded by the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill.
The money will be used to create a bus rapid transit system, which will operate under the name M.O.V.E New Haven. The aim of the project is to increase ridership and reduce travel times for residents in the city and the surrounding communities of Hamden and West Haven.
Bus rapid transit systems are common in cities throughout the country. They enable commuters to cut their travel time by speeding up bus routes and providing dedicated bus lanes.
The planned buildout of New Haven’s rapid transit system, which is expected to begin in 2026, will mirror Hartford’s existing CT Fastrak system. It will include upgrades to traffic signals and 11 miles of roadways, create four new transit hubs, and invest in 15 new electric buses.
At a press conference Thursday at the Dixwell Community House near the Yale University campus, Douglas Hausladen, executive director of the New Haven Parking Authority, said the existing transit network is “robust, it’s complete, it goes everywhere, but doesn’t go there fast enough.”
Hausladen, who is one of the masterminds behind the project, said the goal was to create a “first class, world class transit system for New Haven residents to get to work, to get to their job, and to get to run their life.”
U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, who has represented the New Haven area in Congress since 1991, cheered the new federal investment in the city’s public transit routes.
So did U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., who said the investments would help to modernize the city’s transit system and boost ridership again.
“Cleaner, safer, healthier, and speed — that’s the vision of M.O.V.E New Haven,” Blumenthal told the crowd that gathered for the press conference.
Elicker and Hamden Mayor Lauren Garrett also spoke about what M.O.V.E. New Haven would mean to their respective communities and their constituents.
“I’m particularly excited about this because it focuses on corridors, that obviously are huge transportation corridors in the city that have historically been underresourced,” said Elicker. “People will be able to get where they need to go faster, safer, and at a very low cost.”
Garrett said the upgraded transit system will provide economic benefits for families and local businesses.
“When we make it easier for people to move around on public transit, residents have greater access to their jobs, groceries, and other destinations,” she said. “Without the need for cars there’s more flexibility in family budgets for housing.”
“Local businesses adjacent to the bus routes will get additional foot traffic as bus riders walk to and from their destinations,” she added.
Rep. Roland Lemar, a Democrat who represents New Haven and is a chair of the Transportation Committee, credited local activists and organizers for continuously advocating for enhanced bus services in the city.
That included Kai Addae, with the Safe Streets Coalition of New Haven and New Haven Climate Emergency Task Force.
Addae, who does not own a car, knows how difficult it can be to get to doctor appointments and jobs without a vehicle. She told the crowd Thursday that the rapid transit system would ease that burden for many people in New Haven.
The current bus system already provides roughly 8 million passenger trips per year.
Gov. Ned Lamont touted the fact that New Haven’s transit project was chosen over many other public transportation bids in other parts of the country. The state is also contributing an additional $20 million on top of the federal grant.
“Don’t take it for granted. Ninety percent of these projects were turned down,” Lamont said. “This one was accepted, and it’s accepted because it’s going to be transformative.”
The governor also mentioned his excitement for the new electric buses, which will help with the state’s goal of cutting down on carbon emissions from the transportation system.
The bus rapid transit project is also resonating well with local residents.
“I think it will be very beneficial for the people who live here — people that grew up here,” said Tre Petterson, a Yale student. “I think public transportation is very important for a lot of people that can’t get around.”
Carlin Cassell, a local commuter, said an upgraded public transportation system could also make New Haven’s streets safer.
“My husband and I got into two car accidents … within the past two weeks because driving in this city is not great,” she said. “I think having more resources for public transportation is amazing.”
Garrett Eucalitto, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Transportation, said the project is currently in the design phase.
The full rapid transit system isn’t expected to be finished until 2029, but Eucalitto said he hopes to begin implementation of smaller phases before then.