I can speak as a proud Bristol native and expat, and venture that it's going to exceed expectations handsomely if the frequencies are meaningfully decent. East-west is the overwhelming majority of the commute patterns for just about the entirety of the the area bookended by CT 372 in western New Britain and CT 8 in Thomaston longitudinally, and Waterbury/Cheshire and Avon/Canton latitudinally. Including Waterbury-proper and the small villages north on CT 8 where east-west is the prevailing commute by a *modest* margin over the north-south the Waterbury Line serves. Some of the far north of this 'box' uses US 44 instead of I-84, but that's its own exercise in masochism east of CT 177 at the Canton/Avon town line all the way up and down Talcott Mountain into West Hartford.
So you have this great funneling of traffic into I-84 that builds and builds and builds until it slams into a wall of critical mass in Farmington:
-- I-84 east all the way, Exits 17-28: Waterbury, Cheshire (Cheshire has *some* diversionary options to take I-691 to Meriden station on NHHS), southern part of Wolcott at bottom of mountain. More dilution in north-south/CT 8 commutes the further west you go, but this is still 50% or greater Hartford orientation and with the 84 traffic levels to prove it. Including significant minorities of E-W commutes outside-the-'box' in Naugutuck, Middlebury, etc.
-- CT 10 north-south to I-84, Exits 29-33: all of Southington and Plainville, southern third of Farmington (note: Farmington is a large landmass with hollow middle and distinct population + traffic density pockets concentrated far NW, far south, and far east).
-- CT 72 east to I-84, Exits 33-34 in Plainville: southern two-thirds of Bristol, all parts of Plainville not directly on CT 10 (i.e. CT 177), densest part of Plymouth, northern part of Wolcott up on the mountain, southernmost Farmington on CT 177.
-- Western New Britain traced by CT 372, Corbin Ave., Exits 35-36 in Plainville/New Britain. As noted, a lot of the CT Transit coverage here doesn't hit the busway.
-- US 6 east to I-84, Exits 37-38 in Farmington: northern parts of Bristol, most of southern and eastern Farmington, Plymouth west of downtown, Thomaston and Harwinton (some dilution in north-south commutes on CT 8, but all the new housing developments going up out here tend to be east-west oriented folks).
-- CT 4 to Exit 39 in Farmington: Burlington, NW Farmington, Avon/Canton via CT 167 and CT 177. Some Harwinton and Torrington.
-- CT 9 to Exit 39A, Farmington: anyone who shortcutted through downtown New Britain from points west. Potential busway diversions for the people on the *extreme* east of the 'box' where a short-hop on the highway + park-and-ride is a time-saver vs. tackling Farmington. But it will not save time for anyone who's already fought their road-rage battles getting to Exit 33 from points W/N/NW.
These are the 2010 populations of those towns in the 'box' with a majority Hartford orientation:
New Britain: 73,206
That's the area of impact. Note that not all of these are going to be direct users of Hartford-Waterbury commuter rail. But they are in that 'box' of hellish commute. The 'box' exists because the CT 72 expressway from Plainville to CT 8 in Thomaston was never built and the NW quadrant of the I-291 beltway was never built. These east-west commutes have been crippled since the last segment of I-84 opened in 1969 because all these load-spreading routes were never built. The towns started suffering right then and there. Add the Viaduct project terrorscape to their mobility woes for 15 years and it's basically the killshot. At a time when a LOT of cheap housing and office parks are going up in these 'burbs for people and businesses priced out of any town with a tolerable commute. Which only makes it worse on all those 2-lane feeder roads. These places are also maddeningly inaccessible to Bradley Airport. It's nearby as the crow flies, but 291's cancellation makes downtown 84/91 the only physical means of doing it. And that's torture at all times except late at night and on weekends. You almost can't be in a 'road warrior' type job and be based out here. There's so much cheap real estate out here for office parks and so much trouble attracting white-collar businesses because the airport accessibility is so wretched. ESPN spends an enormous fortune every single day of the year on towncar and limo service to get its guests and remote employees onto campus in Bristol from Bradley, because it's too impractical to force the out-of-towners to rent a car or get there themselves.
One of the many follies of the busway is that it adds absolute zilch to the mobility here in this region most affected by the highway cancellations. The busway pretty much serves population that already has easy access to NHHS via Berlin or West Hartford if the buses only looped there instead, the immediate downtown New Britain, and commuters who have it easy on CT 9 but haven't fought half their car battles reaching Route 9 in the first place. New Britain did have its highways completed save for the I-291 alignment to Rocky Hill that the 1988-infill Route 9 more or less replicates. So for the towns in the 'box' messed up forever by the unfinished highway network, you can't do the 84 Viaduct without having BOTH transit modes cranking beforehand.
The places who are going to use the on-line commuter rail stations are the bolded ones in the above list: New Britain (at direct cannibalization of busway riders), Plainville (incl. west swath of New Britain with easier contra-flow commute to Plainville station vs. downtown NB), Southington (via Plainville), Bristol, Wolcott, Plymouth, and Waterbury. Note that if the spacer stop between Plainville and Bristol in the dense Bristol village of Forestville gets added that's going to increase the ridership share further from Farmington and Southington. Don't know how to empirically crunch those numbers, but if you assume that slightly 50% or somewhat more of the total commuter rail demand in Waterbury is for Hartford, then you can extrapolate some ridership from how a well-performing and frequent-schedule Waterbury Branch would perform from there. Then the population numbers around these stops (taking into account Southington and the Farmington + Plymouth density skews along the Bristol border) allow you to build it up from there in comparison to the much much smaller Waterbury Branch intermediates and their catchment area.
Bristol is obviously a slam-dunk. You can see how well its population slugs vs. Waterbury and NB (it's held steady at 60K for pretty much my whole life while Waterbury has declined and NB has collapsed). Both the downtown stop and the potential Forestville infill have excellent walk-up accessibility. Note that Forestville would be the one that employee shuttle buses from the gigantic ESPN campus would use; it's a 2-mile trip down Birch St. + Pine St. + Lincoln Ave. + East Main from their security gate to the station kiss-and-ride on streets relatively uncongested now that the Route 72 bypass has opened. In fact, I think ESPN arm-twisting probably makes that station AND makes a train schedule that pokes some runs past Hartford to Bradley-terminating both default requirements.
Plainville has excellent walk-up density and room for a parking sink, which is there the Southington and Farmington catchments come into play. It'll probably make CT 10 and CT 177 traffic worse than the bad it already is, but it'll be last-mile type traffic for the commuter rail users instead of only the beginning of their daily waterboarding experience on state highways. Plymouth's obviously a small spacer (though if they pick the east portal of the tunnel on the Bristol line it's got better walkability), but a lot of the farmland on the outskirts of town and in Harwinton, Thomaston (as well as Burlington where CT 69 to downtown Bristol station is the easiest commute) are getting new housing developments for the yuppies who can't afford closer to Hartford. And that's locking up Route 6 solid the whole length east of Route 8. So while the ridership there be sparse it'll draw from every corner intra-town if there's a *decent*-size parking lot. That in turn ends up helping the parts of Bristol that have to fight more traffic on Route 6 to get to the downtown and/or Forestville stops.
I'd say if you're slotting it in total demand it's probably got starter potential > Waterbury Branch, < Danbury Branch. And would be faster-than-usual to catch on as a starter line if it were timed as a Viaduct-geddon project prerequisite. Growth ceiling at probably the Danbury/New Milford level if the schedule it scales up; if Bradley-terminating trains are a meaningful permanent portion of the schedule and Devon or Bridgeport run-thrus on a smaller portion of the schedule open up some transfer options on the Shoreline; if they get ESPN's full-throated support for running an employee shuttle; and if the CT Transit connections (especially up-down CT 10 and CT 69 to Plainville and Bristol to capture a wider walk-up swath of Southington, Farmington, the outer hills of Bristol, and Wolcott). I wouldn't put great money on CDOT's follow-through on the connecting services because it's CDOT, so that'll probably blunt the edge quite a bit. But ESPN is a definite wag-the-dog on putting the extra running miles to Bradley in-play because they are the singularly largest and deepest-pocket employer, pretty much are the de facto government in Bristol as far as getting their way, and have the most to gain from this line of any one organization. For one because they'd save millions of operating expenses per year on car service (that gets stuck in traffic) to/from Bradley.
Last edited by Jeff Smith on Sun Aug 09, 2015 1:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Remove nesting quote from immediately preceding quote (indexing)