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Monday, July 24, 2017

The Hartford Train Line

There's a big story in Connecticut today.  Governor Malloy announced the names of the joint venture partners that will operate the new Hartford rail line project.  If you've never heard of the Hartford rail project, you're not alone.  It is a line that will run trains from New Haven through Hartford and on to Springfield Massachusetts.  Seventeen round trips a day are estimated to carry about 2000 riders per day.  That's fewer than 60 people per train.  And that's the good news.  The bad news is that the project will have a major annual operating cost that will not be covered by fares and construction of the line and purchase of the cars may cost as much as $600 million dollars. 

The question, of course, is whether or not it makes sense to build make this investment.  Sure, the legislature and the governor like to point to their support for public transportation, but that doesn't answer the question.  The New Haven line of Metro North already is running near capacity and it carries more than 50 times the estimated ridership of the Hartford line (if it is successful).  Wouldn't the $600 million be better spent improving the New Haven line?

It's also worth remembering that there already is a train that runs from Springfield down through Hartford and on to New Haven.  The new line will just add additional trains each day.  In other words, the 2000 riders each day will not all be new riders.  Some are already riding the existing trains.

Connecticut's budget has a major deficit that Governor Malloy and the legislature seems incapable of repairing.  It would be nice if the governor and the legislature would actually tell the people of this state why they are throwing so much money on this tiny transit project.  There really is no excuse for their behavior.

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