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32 CTTRANSIT--HARTFORD, CT CTTRANSIT is the statewide transit operator in Connecticut, including Hartford (the state capital). The service area popu- lation of the Hartford Division is 850,000. CTTRANSIT's Hartford Division operates 193 peak buses directly, with an annual ridership of 13.8 million. Approximately 50,000 peo- ple work in downtown Hartford. Circulator Origins and Operation FIGURE 4 Charm City Circulator bus branding. CTTRANSIT began operating a downtown Hartford circula- tor in September 2005. The state of Connecticut built a new Changes and Lessons Learned convention center in Hartford, and the Convention and Visi- tors Bureau (CVB) was emphatic that there needed to be a If the Baltimore DOT could change one aspect of the planning downtown shuttle to allow it to compete with other cities for and implementation it might have been more cautious in conventions. The stumbling block for two years was funding. announcing the implementation schedule. Three launch dates In July 2005, Hartford's congressman presided over a meet- came and went owing to a delay in vehicle acquisition, which ing of everyone involved and brokered a plan to implement lessened confidence in the city's ability to deliver the service. the shuttle. The agency is convinced that it was worth the wait to get things right at the outset, and the issue of confidence disappeared Funding for the circulator comes out of the Connecticut once service was up and running; however, if they had to do it DOT budget. As the local transit provider, CTTRANSIT had over again, they would wait until the vehicles were onsite approximately six weeks to design the route, estimate the tim- before announcing a launch date. ing, prepare schedules, and brand the vehicles. The transit agency worked with the convention center management, the The Baltimore DOT offers several lessons learned through CVB, and the Metro Alliance (the greater Hartford Chamber its implementation and early operation of the Charm City of Commerce) in adapting the Metro Alliance's most recent Circulator: campaign theme, "Hartford: New England's Rising Star." The downtown circulator was christened the Star Shuttle. Ini- tially, it was viewed as a 90-day demonstration project; how- Do not try to please everyone all of the time. The rout- ever, ridership exceeded expectations and therefore it was ing did not please all stakeholders, but the DOT stood extended for one year. By September 2006, the Star Shuttle by its goal to "keep it simple." had established itself as part of the transit network in Hartford. A stable, reliable funding source is important. A circu- lator based on voluntary contributions will not work, as The market for the circulator is clearly defined as tourists shown by previous efforts in Baltimore. and visitors, and the convention center and downtown hotels Set aside a good amount of money for marketing. The are its major champion. The circulator is a one-way loop route DOT dedicated 5% of operating funds to marketing. 2.5 miles in length connecting the convention center and the The circulator service needs to be highly differentiated hotels, most of which are four to seven blocks away. Figure 5 from other transit services. shows the route, which also serves the Amtrak train station. Running time is 18 to 20 min, and CTTRANSIT uses two The Baltimore DOT's advice to another agency trying 30-ft buses seating 25 passengers each. Circulator brochures to replicate its program is to first identify a reliable and sta- do not include a timetable, but simply state that service oper- ble funding source. Without it, the circulator will not be ates every 12 min. Service is provided from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. sustainable. weekdays and from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday. There is no Sunday service. Success can be measured quantitatively, based on rider- ship and productivity. However, certain intangibles also need The downtown circulator operates a consistent route and to be included in the definition of success. In Baltimore's headway all day; there are no dotted lines on the map indicat- case, the intangibles included added confidence in downtown ing part-time service. This consistency and simplicity of oper- and the breadth of support from elected officials, downtown ation is seen as a plus, quickly orienting tourists and visitors interests, and the transit agency. to its ease of use.

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33 Free downtown shuttle operates approximately every 12 minutes, Monday through Friday beginning at 7:00 AM to 11:00 PM, and Saturday from 3:00 PM to 11:00 PM. XL Center Homewood Suites Union Station ? (2009) STAR SHUTTLE ROUTE FIGURE 5 Star Shuttle route map. A lunchtime crowd was also envisioned as a secondary and others inside and outside the bus have not been pursued market, but it has not materialized because almost every owing to modest revenue forecasts. Instead, signs inside major office building in downtown has some type of cafete- the bus promote Hartford and its downtown in keeping ria. Although downtown restaurants thrive during lunch hour, with the tourist destination theme. Figure 6 shows a Star many employees appear to stay within their buildings for lunch. Shuttle bus. CTTRANSIT has witnessed the crowds in the building cafete- rias during transit fairs at office locations. CTTRANSIT is flexible in response to convention needs and will make modifications to the service on a case-by-case Ridership is heavily dependent on convention center activ- basis. The agency will begin service earlier on Saturday and ity. When events take place, daily ridership is typically in the operate on Sunday if there is a big weekend convention. The 500 to 600 range, and can be as high as 1,500 for a large con- circulator will operate until midnight or 1:00 a.m. on days vention. When the convention center is "dark," daily ridership when there is extensive evening activity. is between 150 and 200, many of whom are parking at remote garages and lots and taking the circulator to the office. CTTRANSIT has a 40-ft hydrogen fuel-cell bus that is used primarily on the downtown circulator route. Even though it is The Star Shuttle is free. This was more or less a given at branded somewhat differently, the "green" bus presents a very the start of the service. The transit agency's estimate is that a positive image of the city and the convention center (see nominal fare would bring only about 10% of the $500,000 Figure 7). cost to operate the service, which is not seen as worth the bother of installing fareboxes and counting money. Similarly, Friendly drivers are an important component of a down- ideas about selling targeted advertising to local restaurants town circulator. There was a clause in the agency's union

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34 Everyone has a better idea for the route. These usually involve a stop directly outside the person's restaurant or hotel. The main downtown theater and Symphony Hall cannot understand why they are not on the shuttle route, even though a $5 door-to-door taxi trip appears to be the preferred mode for most playgoers and concertgoers. The circulator does serve downtown Hartford's small entertainment district. The idea of expanding or extending the route is fre- quently raised. The increased length of time on the one- way loop and the cost of an extra bus are not clearly understood. The state DOT funds all of the service; however, stake- holders are free in their opinions of how DOT might spend its money. FIGURE 6 Star Shuttle bus. There has been talk of a second route; however, there is no consensus among stakeholders regarding places to serve that are not currently served. A second route would double the contract that allowed for negotiation of rates and other agree- cost of service and most likely duplicate at least some of the ments for nontraditional transit service. CTTRANSIT's current route. CTTRANSIT guards the circulator very dili- general manager indicated that the agency wanted to select gently to avoid dilution of service and to keep the focus on its outgoing drivers who could serve as ambassadors. The transit primary market. union agreed, noting that no one would want just any driver on that route. As it turned out, the senior drivers who bid on The primary benefits of the Star Shuttle are a free connec- the circulator when it started were exactly the type of drivers tion between the convention center and downtown hotels, the agency wanted; a self-selection process appeared to be at strong ridership during convention events, and providing the work. The CVB helps to train the drivers in how to be cus- CVB with a sales tool to attract conventions to Hartford. The tomer-focused with tourists, and the drivers enjoy chatting whole process of starting up and operating the downtown cir- with people visiting Hartford from around the world. Some culator has been positive for CTTRANSIT. The transit agency drivers go above and beyond, putting together visitor packets is structured as a private entity to operate transit throughout using various brochures and directing visitors on how to save the state, with all policy directives coming from the state the $30 taxi fare to the airport by taking local transit. The union DOT. It has no dealings with the mayor or the city council. has been very cooperative, and many visitors have taken the CTTRANSIT's involvement with the CVB has made transit time to write to the agency commending the drivers. more a part of the business community and has created valu- able partnerships. Several issues have arisen over the years, mostly in response to the Star Shuttle's success: The primary drawback of the downtown circulator is low ridership when the convention center is dark. The circulator is not designed to serve the regular transit customer, because most of the route does not overlap another transit route or stop. However, this has positive aspects of avoiding confu- sion for both circulator and regular riders. Given the market for the circulator, any changes to down- town have not affected operation. If the agency could change one aspect of operation, it might operate fewer hours. A span of service from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on weekdays would meet the overwhelming majority of demand, and service could be added as needed on weekday evenings and weekends. It might appear that it would be more confusing to market the circulator as operat- ing sometimes during evenings and weekends; however, each convention is its own market. There was an expectation that a Saturday night market would develop, taking people from FIGURE 7 Hydrogen fuel cell bus used on the Star Shuttle route. hotels to dinner, but it has not happened.