Connecticut officials this week marked the one year anniversary of the Hartford Line commuter rail service which stretches from New Haven to Springfield. And the Department of Transportation is touting the first year as a success -- despite teething problems -- saying ridership for the year exceeded 634,000 passengers, about 50,000 more than projected.
The DOT's head of Public Transportation, Rich Andreski told a news conference that Year Two holds many new features for Hartford Line including a new mobile app.
“Customers have said they want easier ways of purchasing tickets, so we’re developing a mobile app," said Andreski. "That app has already been released to a small number of our customers and we plan a full rollout later this year.”
Andreski said another feature coming soon is the capacity to store bicycles in every car running on the line.
Governor Ned Lamont has big ambitions for transportation generally in the state, but he said in the short term there are small changes that can make the Hartford Line even a few minutes faster for customers.
“We can do some incremental things," said Lamont. "We don’t have to have a high speed Shanghai to Beijing type rail. But we can make it, 10, 15, 20 minutes faster just by doing some basic state of good repair and some signalization work and that’s what we gotta do to get this state moving again.”
Lamont's larger vision is still waiting on a funding model -- and the governor said he's still hopeful his plan to implement tolling on Connecticut highways could get a positive vote in a special session of the legislature.
Lamont said he’s still in negotiations with legislative leaders on the timing and scope of the session. He told reporters he's expecting some significant differences with Republican senate minority leader Len Fasano.
"Len Fasano and I both agree we need about $700 million a year more," he said. "He wants to bond it on the back of the taxpayers; I'd like a user fee via tolls. If you want some sort of a compromise there, let's talk about it. I'm not interested really in loading all that debt on the back of the taxpayers -- that's exactly what we've done for 50 years in this state."
The governor says he’s meeting with legislators Wednesday to try to reach a deal on a special session.