Letter: Commission on DisAbilities addresses bus opponents

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To the editor:

The residents of Southington have just seen a dubious anniversary pass. Bus service in Southington stopped on Jan. 19, 1969 when H&W Transit and the Cooke Street line from Waterbury ceased operations. The bus companies serving Southington were not acquired by CTtransit, and for the last 50 years Southington residents have had no access to a fixed route bus service that connected the town to the rest of the state.

In June 2018 the Capitol Region Council of Governments (CRCOG) and CTtransit released their New Britain-Bristol Division Comprehensive Service Analysis for the region. The study included recommendations for changes in bus routes to Plainville and Bristol and for the resurrection of a fixed route bus service to Southington. Southington stands as the largest community in the state without fixed route bus service.

It’s been reported that no other town in the nation, of Southington’s size, is without a mass transit public service.

So why does this matter? Without a fixed route bus service, Southington’s disabled residents are not eligible for Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) mandated para transit bus service. Para transit service is provided to residents with disabilities, within a three-quarter mile buffer on each side of a fixed route. Without a fixed route bus service, those with disabilities who can work, who need to travel for medical appointments, who would like to attend higher education, or would just like to travel for entertainment have no way to travel except with assistance provided by family, friends or volunteers.

Recent data for Connecticut indicates that 12.7 percent of the population has a disability. For Southington’s population of 43,863 that equates to 5,571 individuals. While para transit service is vital to those with severe disabilities, many people with disabilities who cannot drive but could take a bus have no mass transit access in Southington.

Without a fixed bus route, Southington remains unique in that it is surrounded by towns and cities with abundant mass transit options that could, without much effort, be connected to Southington. A town without public transportation is not one that is viewed as a place that will attract new business.

The CRCOG report addresses the implementation of a fixed route bus service to Southington by connecting Plainville and Bristol with a route via Route 10 and West Street, through the center of town, to the Plantsville Fast Trak commuter lot and then to West Street into Bristol

In addition to improving access to jobs, medical care, education, and entertainment for all Southington residents, resurrection of bus service serves to reduce the number of cars on the road, bring customers to businesses, and improve air quality.

Arguments against the resurrection of bus service are as follows:

  • We are not that type of town—Most decline to specify what that type is, but one resident recently voiced his opinion in a letter to the editor, stating, “buses will only serve people that we really don’t want in our town.” That’s a disappointing attitude towards the 5,000 plus individuals with disabilities and their families to say the least.
  • Fast Trak connects Southington to area towns, so we don’t need another bus route—Fast Trak serves to take commuters out of town and back with no local service.
  • Southington provides Dial-A- Ride for those with disabilities, so we don’t need para transit—Yes, the Dial-A- Ride program provides a valuable, state-subsidized service for those with disabilities, but it operates on a limited schedule, requires advance reservation and provides no service on weekends/ holidays.
  • Buses will create traffic problems—The proposed one bus per hour is not onerous and each bus serves to take cars off the road, thus reducing traffic.

It is vital that the Southington policy makers know that the restoration of bus service to Southington has significant benefits for all its residents. Southington residents have been paying state taxes that subsidize bus service for the entire state and yet have received no service or benefit from their contribution. Fifty years is too long to go without bus service.

Town of Southington Commission on DisAbilities: Marlene Carbone, Mary Etter, Karen M. Leary, June O’Leary, George Pohorilak, Ryan Rogers, Deborah Ruzzi, Diane Snow, Susan Spatafore

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