Hartfordâ–˛Willimantic Commuter Bus Service
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<!-- field: HtmlTitle --> Hartford▲Willimantic Commuter Bus Service

OLR Research Report OLR Research Report

The Connecticut General Assembly


November 27, 1995 95-R-0544


FROM: James J. Fazzalaro, Principal Analyst

RE: Hartford-Willimantic Commuter Bus Service

You asked for general information on the express commuter bus service running between Hartford and Willimantic. You wanted a history of fares for the service and to know if the state subsidizes the service and how fares are determined when a private carrier provides the service.


The commuter bus service between Hartford and Willimantic was initiated in 1976. Service was provided by Eastern Bus Lines until mid-1977 when it was taken over by Connecticut Transit, the state-owned bus service that provides fixed route service in Hartford. The change was made because Eastern's service proved unsatisfactory. The service was given to another private carrier in 1985. Arrow Line began providing service due to equipment constraints on Connecticut Transit and the federal transit agency's desire to increase involvement of the private sector in federally-subsidized transit services. Arrow provides the current service.


Three basic one trip fares are charged depending on whether the passenger rides through two, three, or four fare zones. Until August 1983, the three fares were $ . 90, $ 1. 20, and $ 1. 50 respectively. They were increased to $ 1. 15, $ 1. 50, and $ 1. 90 at that time. They increased again to: $ 1. 50, $ 2. 00, and $ 2. 50 on September 1, 1992; $ 1. 70, $ 2. 25, and $ 2. 80 on April 1, 1994; and $ 1. 80, $ 2. 35, and $ 2. 90 on October 30, 1995. Fares will increase again on July 1, 1996 to $ 1. 95, $ 2. 50, and $ 3. 05. These fares apply to all of the express commuter bus routes, not just the Hartford-Willimantic route.


The Connecticut Department of Transportation (DOT) provides a subsidy for the route. In FY 1992-93, the state-funded deficit was $ 236,346. The service currently is receiving approximately $ 428,000 in state subsidy for FY 1995-96.


State law authorizes the transportation commissioner to aid or promote the operation of any transportation service by contracting with private carriers, including common carriers, transit districts, municipalities, or any government entities to start, develop, continue, or improve a service. The state may provide service, share in the costs, or provide equipment for the service. Under this general authority, the commissioner may establish, charge, and collect fares and other charges, or arrange for their collection, to the extent he deems “necessary, convenient, or desirable” (CGS § 13b-34(a)).

The service contracts for the express commuter bus services are negotiated under this general authority. The DOT determines the projected revenues, expenses, and necessary subsidy during this process. Any changes to fares that may be required to assure a reasonable recovery of costs through the farebox are adopted as DOT regulations. The carriers do not have the authority to unilaterally raise the fares.

Another law requires the commissioner to make grants under the bus subsidy program to subsidize the operating expenses of privately owned bus companies to the extent this is necessary to allow these companies to charge the same basic adult first zone fares as are charged in Hartford, New Haven, and Stamford (where state-owned Connecticut Transit provides the service). The bus companies must provide acceptable documentation in support of their subsidy claims (CGS § 13b-34a). This requirement tends to affect a few of the smaller urban area fixed route services more than the commuter services, since most of the latter are multiple fare zone runs.

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