By SHERIDAN ROY
Southington for Transportation, a group composed of several local organizations in favor of a public transportation system in Southington, held an informational meeting on Feb. 13 to discuss the first three phases of the comprehensive service analysis study reported by the Capitol Region Council of Government (CRCOG), CTtransit and the Connecticut Department of Transportation.
Phase one of the proposal was presented at a November Town Council meeting. The bus will travel into Southington from Plainville on route 10 (Queen Street), will take a right-hand turn down W. Queen Street, and will return to Bristol on West Street.
Once the second phase is initiated, the route would be lengthened. Instead of turning down W. Queen Street, the bus would continue down route 10, traveling through the center of Southington, through Plantsville Center, past Kennedy Middle School and to the commuter lot across from Sliders Grill & Bar in Plantsville. The bus will then return through the center of Plantsville, and go down West Street towards Bristol.
Phase three would add Sunday service.
“We are the only town of its size in Connecticut without a fixed bus route,” said commission on disabilities member George Pohorilak, who gave a presentation alongside Nancy Chiero. “And, we have been trying to verify this and have yet to ‘un-verify’ this, but we believe we are the only town this size in the nation without a public transportation bus route.”
Southington’s commission on disabilities is a strong supporter of bringing a public bus route to town. Out of Southington’s 43,863 residents (2017), an estimated 5,571 are disabled. If the town approves a local bus route, the town would automatically be entitled to a paratransit service, which provides disabled individuals who reside within three-quarters of a mile from each side of a fixed bus route access to a smaller bus—similar to the buses used by the Calendar House—to bring them anywhere in the state.
“Southington’s lack of public transportation creates a hole in the center of the state that keeps residents of Southington from traveling to adjacent towns and the rest of the state,” said Pohorilak. “Every town around Southington offers transportation.”
Pohorilak said one of the “ironies” is that residents of Southington, through state and federal taxes, have been subsidizing public bus service in 99 other towns in Connecticut.
“So we pay for it, but we don’t get it,” he said. “We’re essentially a donor to a bigger system.”
Adding a public bus and paratransit service in Southington would be a $2 million expense addition to the state’s approximate $172 million transportation budget, which is less than half a percentage. In addition, phase one of the proposed route is cost-neutral, because a duplicate CTfastrack route in Bristol would be eliminated if phase one was approved.
The proposal from CRCOG, CTtransit and CTDOT acknowledges “explosive growth in housing as well as commercial and industrial properties” in Southington, contributing to “increasing congestion.” It states transportation options are “necessary to alleviate this.”
Key destinations along the proposed phase two route include: Gaylord Towers, downtown Bristol, Bristol Hospital, Lake Avenue park-and-ride, ESPN, Plantsville park-and-ride, downtown Southington, downtown Plainville and Connecticut Commons (Plainville).
While locations for bus stops are to-be-determined, Pohorilak and Chiero said bus stops are typically in or in front of shopping plazas.
“The question was raised of if owners of plazas would want these buses in there,” said Chiero. “I contacted one plaza, RK Southington, and they said ‘absolutely.’”
Pohorilak and Chiero said it is unlikely a plaza owner would turn down the potential to have additional customers dropped off in their shopping centers.
In addition, Pohorilak said he would estimate around 10 bus stops throughout Southington’s bus route based on similar municipalities in the state with existing bus routes, though those numbers are under the purview of CRCOG, CTtransit and CTDOT.
According to state ADA requirements, bus stop boarding and alighted areas shall be connected to streets, sidewalks or pedestrian paths by an accessible route. A slope perpendicular to the roadway shall be handicapped accessible.
To access the final study report, visit CRCOG.org. Under the “departments” tab, select “policy development and planning,” then “plans and studies.” Select “New Britain-Bristol division comprehensive service analysis final report—appendices.”
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Roy, email her at SRoy@SouthingtonObserver.com.