Moving Connecticut Forward

Key Public Transportation Projects and Their Benefits for the Constitution State

Public transportation makes a vital contribution to Connecticut's transportation system, relieving congestion, reducing our dependence on oil, curbing pollution, stimulating the economy, and helping to sustain healthy, vibrant communities. While Connecticut has made some important transit investments over the last several decades, many important projects have been left on the drawing board. Moving Connecticut Forward describes the many benefits Connecticut already gains from public transportation, lays out a vision for 21st century transportation projects in the state, and outlines policies to make that vision a reality.


Connecticut’s transportation system is in trouble. Traffic congestion wastes valuable time and energy, volatile gasoline prices are straining our pocketbooks, and our cars and trucks produce pollution that harms our health and contributes to global warming.

Public transportation makes a vital contribution to Connecticut’s transportation system, relieving congestion, reducing our dependence on oil, curbing pollution, stimulating the economy, and helping to sustain healthy, vibrant communities. While Connecticut has made some important transit investments over the last several decades, many important projects have been left on the drawing board.

Connecticut needs a transportation system that meets the needs of the 21st century – one in which public transportation plays an even bigger role than it does today. To get there, we need to start investing now in critical public transportation projects.

Connecticut residents drive more miles, spend more on gasoline, experience more congestion, and produce more global warming pollution from transportation than they did two decades ago.

  • The number of vehicle miles traveled per person on Connecticut’s highways increased by 42 percent between 1980 and 2008, accounting for nearly 3,000 additional miles traveled per person per year.
  • Connecticut residents spent about $1.6 billion more on gasoline in 2006 than they did four years earlier, a product of more miles being driven in inefficient vehicles, coupled with higher gasoline prices.
  • Congestion on Connecticut’s roads has continued to get worse. In 2007, travelers in the Bridgeport, Hartford and New Haven areas spent nearly 32 million hours in traffic delays – a 65 percent increase in wasted time over the previous decade.
  • Transportation is a leading source of global warming pollution in Connecticut. Connecticut’s transportation system produced 20 percent more carbon dioxide in 2005 than it did in 1990.

Public transportation helps address Connecticut’s energy, transportation, economic, and environmental challenges.

  • Public transportation pays dividends for Connecticut residents and our economy.
    • In 2006, public transportation in Connecticut saved approximately 51 million gallons of oil, saving consumers more than $130 million at the pump.
    • Public transportation is helping to reduce global warming pollution in Connecticut by removing cars from the road, averting about 335,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide pollution in 2006.
    • Public transportation can efficiently connect workers to jobs, increasing the economic competitiveness of the state
  • Ridership on key public transportation services in Connecticut is on the rise. Both Metro-North and Shore Line East commuter rail services set ridership records in 2008. Nearly twice as many riders take Metro-North or Shore Line East trains as in the mid- to late 1990s.
  • However, nearly 80 percent of Connecticut residents drive to work alone while only about 4 percent take public transportation, meaning that there are plenty of opportunities to entice new riders to transit.

Improved public transportation benefits not only transit riders, but the general public as well.

  • Transit reduces congestion, which improves safety and travel times for remaining drivers.
  • Fewer cars on the roadways reduces the money necessary for highway construction and maintenance.
  • Public transportation reduces emissions from personal vehicles, improving air quality and protecting the health of all of Connecticut’s residents.
  • Transit revitalizes cities, which benefits businesses, workers and individuals across the state.

There are dozens of worthy public transit improvements that would give Connecticut residents alternatives to the rising cost of driving, reduce congestion, save oil and reduce pollution. Many of these projects have been stuck on the drawing board for decades but their importance is greater than ever.

A 21st century transit system for Connecticut would include the following (not in order of priority):

Connecting Connecticut by Rail

  • Building the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield commuter rail line to connect communities along the state’s “Knowledge Corridor.”
  • Initiating commuter rail service between New London and Worcester, Mass., providing new transportation options for Eastern Connecticut.
  • Improving and extending the Metro-North Danbury Branch, providing service as far north as New Milford and electrifying the line to provide cleaner, more efficient and faster travel.
  • Improving service along the Metro-North New Haven Line, including providing direct service to New York’s Penn Station.
  • Extending and electrifying the Shore Line East commuter rail line to provide regular service to New London and cleaner, speedier service for all Shore Line East customers.
  • Building a commuter rail line between Waterbury and Hartford, linking together communities along the congested I-84 corridor, as well as creating rapid transit service between Hartford and New Britain.

Improving Transit in Connecticut’s Cities

  • Building a rapid transit network for Hartford that includes light rail or bus rapid transit lines in several corridors, including spurs from Hartford to the Griffin office park and Bradley International, to East Hartford, Manchester and Vernon, and to Rocky Hill.
  • Revitalizing and expanding bus service throughout Connecticut to reach more riders, improve service and create easier connections between transit agencies to ease travel throughout the state, while maintaining reasonable fares.

Connecticut should develop a statewide plan for a 21st century transit system and identify the resources needed to achieve the plan:

  • Develop a statewide public transportation plan that sets out an ambitious, long-term agenda for transit system improvement and expansion. The plan should identify needed projects, estimate a price tag, and propose both a project schedule and sources of funding. A comprehensive plan is needed both to highlight the scale of investment needed and to minimize competition for scarce resources among various projects. 
  • Urge the U.S. Congress to revamp federal transportation policy when the federal transportation funding law comes up for reauthorization. Revisions should include shifting resources from highway expansion to transit projects, focusing highway dollars on repairing existing assets, and targeting federal money on strategic goals such as safety, energy conservation, and the creation of compact, sustainable communities.
  • Work with other northeastern states to develop a long-range rail transportation vision for the region and identify potential sources of funding.
  • Focus scarce state transportation dollars on needed transit system improvements as well as maintenance and repair of existing transportation infrastructure. The state should also increase its investment in operating funds.

Kari Wohlschlegel

Policy Associate

Tony Dutzik

Associate Director and Senior Policy Analyst, Frontier Group

Tony Dutzik is associate director and senior policy analyst with Frontier Group. His research and ideas on climate, energy and transportation policy have helped shape public policy debates across the U.S., and have earned coverage in media outlets from the New York Times to National Public Radio. A former journalist, Tony lives and works in Boston.