CTfastrak operations questioned; bill would require detailed operational figures

February 6, 2017

Journal Inquirer

HARTFORD — Questions are being raised about CTfastrak’s costs and ridership numbers, with at least one legislator saying during a Transportation Committee public hearing Monday that the service is operating at a multimillion-dollar deficit.

A proposed bill would require additional oversight of CTfastrak by directing the Department of Transportation commissioner to submit reports to the joint standing committee of the General Assembly no later than July 1, and biannually thereafter.

The reports would include ridership numbers, revenue, cost of operation, and maintenance. The first report would require monthly numbers since the busway began. The bill would prohibit the commissioner from expanding the service without approval from both chambers of the General Assembly.

Sen. Joseph Markley, R-Southington, testified in favor of the bill, saying the service is not sustainable.

Citing numbers he obtained from the DOT, Markley said the busway averages 4,738 weekday riders per day, which means the actual number of people would be about half.
On a per capita basis, he said, that means the state is subsidizing the busway at the tune of $7,387 per rider.

“The busway is currently operating at a deficit of $17.5 million a year,” Markley said. “The governor has done his very best to convince us that it has been a blazing success. … I’m trying to come up with a factual response to the governor’s cheerleading.”

He said the initial construction of the busway, which included $130 million in state bonding, occurred as the result of “bureaucratic inertia.”

“It just moved and moved and moved until it became fact and to my mind, an expensive fact,” Markley said. “The legislature should be involved earlier on in a process like that.”
He added that he believes the questions he posed Monday are “just the tip of the iceberg.”

Markley said his interest in the bill is to make the busway’s operational figures available, and “not interference with its ongoing operations.”

Rep. Antonio Guerrera, D-Rocky Hill, committee co-chairman, said the DOT would give the committee an update on its operations, which he said would include those details.

“We’re all curious to see what the cost is and how it’s doing,” he said. “I’m sure many of the members of this committee are going to be asking those same questions.”

Rep. Whit Betts, R-Bristol, also questioned the cost of construction, ridership, and the improvement of air pollution resulting from fewer cars on the road.