"Developing Connecticut's Transit Future: Strategic Placemaking and Economic Opportunity" is the topic at a free forum to be held June 15th at The Lyceum in Hartford to begin at 8:30 a.m.
The Partnership for Strong Communities is hosting this discussion of the potential benefits of public transit at a propitious time for New Britain. It'll raise key ideas and issues tailor-made for what city officials and residents need to consider in shaping the city's future. Organizers say speakers at the forum will include "talented, experienced architects, designers and planners." The discussion will involve policymakers, developers, mayors, first selectmen, town managers, business leaders, planners and zoning officials.
The imminent construction of the New Britain-to-Hartford Busway -- christened "CTFastrak" at groundbreaking ceremonies last week by transportation officials, invites no small amount of hope that public transit will spur economic development in downtown New Britain. Colin McEnroe makes this point well in his May 27th Courant column, calling the busway "Scootie" and recalling CT's backwardness on mass transit.
As reported by Scott Whipple in the New Britain Herald: "The project includes 11 stations along the route from New Britain to Newington into West Hartford and ending in Hartford with buses running every three to six minutes during peak commuting hours."
Artist's rendering of New Britain's CTFastrak Station (CT-DOT)
N.B.'s central business district, long a victim of retail flight to malls and the god-awful Route 9 that split the town in two in the 1970s, needs a multi-pronged approach to revival.
The new police station, mistakenly being built at Chestnut and Main, gives us a much needed public safety facility, but is not the elixir for a revitalized central business district that was promised. All is not lost, however.
"CTFastrak" represents a piece of the solution for New Britain as commuters, frustrated as we are about the I-84 crawl to and from the capital city, can turn to rapid transit to avoid parking fees and congestion. Don't forget that upwards of 100,000 people go into the capital city on weekdays -- many from west of the river. There's also the outflow of city residents who need to get to class at CCSU or to one of the jobs that left Hartford for greener (probably not the right word) pastures and more parking lots.
"Many factors – from expensive gasoline and heating oil to tight credit and high down payment requirements, from a growing 65+ population to our need to attract skilled, educated 25-34-year-old labor pool – have made your transit-proximate town a potential focus for a new wave of development and growth," says PSC's Policy Director David Fink. "Smaller, energy-efficient, market-rate, affordable and mixed-income homes near transit – with commercial development, parks, entertainment and recreation weaved in – will be in demand over the next two decades. Large homes far from town centers and transit will not necessarily stay vacant, but demand for them will decline."