Market Feasibility Study of the Danbury and New Canaan Branch Lines

This report, completed in 1987 for the South Western Regional Planning Agency (SWRPA), was completed by Urbitran Associates, Wilbur Smith & Associates, J/M Stalk & Associates, and Herbert Levinson. The focus of the project was to improve intrastate travel via train.

The 1970s and 1980s brought a surge of employment opportunities to the region and caused traffic congestion on the Merritt Parkway, I-95, and Route 7 due to people commuting into the region from their homes. A 1985 study found that the basic employment market for Stamford labor market had a radius of 38.6 miles and the Norwalk labor market had a radius of 27.9 miles. The growth in the area prompted a study of alternative transportation means to the single occupancy vehicle.

The New Canaan and Danbury Branch lines were each studied separately. For the Danbury Line, the study objective was:

-“to determine the size of the intrastate market for transit service along the Danbury Branch and, depending upon the level of demand, to develop an implementable plan detailing recommended service for the identified market.”

The study approach involved analysis of current demographic data and forecasted models of ridership and level of service; review of planning documents; stakeholder interviews; and field investigation of physical and operating capabilities. Other sections in the approach included schedule changes, track and signal changes, operating and capital costs, ridership and revenues, and operating consequences of the recommended improvements.

As a result of the study, it was found that 150 of 750 daily peak morning riders used the train for intra-state commuting. The use of the train is limited by the number of direct trips and the peak hour frequency of trips. The people who used the train conformed their schedules to work with the train schedule. The majority of riders walk from the destination station to their workplaces in less than 10 minutes. An untapped market was identified in people who did not have employment hours consistent with the train schedule or who did not have easy access from the station to their workplace. Deficiencies noted included the lack of a morning peak northbound train and inconsistency in direct service between branch line and main line stations.

From the modeling efforts in the study, which account for population and employment growth, the Danbury Branch ridership increased from 750 trips to 1,580 trips using the most optimistic of settings. That number would include 500 intra-state southbound and 200 intra-state northbound riders. The demand forecast was dependent upon many activities including increased station parking, the addition of southbound through trains, high platform service, and the development of marketing and employer programs. In order to accomplish these operational improvements, several capital improvements were also necessary. Example capital improvements included the installation of a central control system signalization program, upgrading of sidings, and the purchase of new train sets.

The recommended plan included five southbound morning peak trains, three of which would be through trains to Grand Central Station. The plan also called for four morning northbound trains. Midday service was recommended at two-hour intervals. The additional capital cost to implement the program was $5.9 million. The program was also anticipated to be supported by complementary bus shuttles in Wilton, Merritt 7, Greenwich, and Stamfor

Study Sections