Route 7 Corridor Travel Options Implementation Plan

This study, completed in 2000 for the South Western Regional Planning Agency (SWRPA) and the Housatonic Valley Council of Elected Officials (HVCEO), was performed by Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc. and KKO and Associates, Inc. The study presented a list of recommended changes to current transportation systems along the Route 7 corridor in western Connecticut. The study aimed to reduce traffic congestion, increase mobility, and provide travel options for residents of the Housatonic Valley. The study area was the Route 7 corridor between Norwalk and New Milford which serves as a link between high density employment areas with rapidly growing residential communities. Job growth is concentrated at the southern end of the corridor in Stamford, Greenwich and Norwalk and residential growth is concentrated in the northern end of the corridor in Bethel, Brookfield and New Milford. Strong job growth in New York City and along the I-95 corridor was projected and acted as an impetus for the study. In anticipation of this future growth, the result of this project is a list of commuter rail service improvements and bus and shuttle service enhancements as well as Travel Demand Management and Transit Oriented Service Support strategies.

Commuter Rail Service Improvements
The study recommended two packages of commuter rail service improvements. The first package deals with enhancing the existing Danbury Line and the second package aims to extend the Danbury Line as far north as New Milford. The enhancement package involves two phases of capital and service improvements and the extension package involves three phases of development.
The Danbury Line enhancement package recommended increasing the maximum speed on the Lien to 60 mph by adding a new signal and communication system. The two phases of service improvements would increase service 55% and an additional 23%, respectively. The first phase of service improvements was projected to reduce passenger travel time by 18%.

The final recommended service product would add the following trips:

 
  • early morning shuttle (2) Wilton/Danbury – South Norwalk – New York City
  • mid-day shuttle (3) Danbury – South Norwalk
  • evening reverse (1) Danbury – South Norwalk
  • morning reverse (3) South Norwalk – Danbury
  • mid-day reverse (5) South Norwalk – Danbury
  • late evening (1) Danbury – South Norwalk
  • early evening (1) New York City through to Danbury

    The number in the parentheses in the above list is the number of trips scheduled to be added per time frame and direction end the end of the two implementation phases

The extension to New Milford rail service package involves three phases of development that would ultimately provide commuter service along the 14.2 miles of new or refurbished track between Danbury and New Milford. The phased capital improvement program and operating plan was designed to allow for an incremental approach to the extension. The new signal and communication system discussed in the enhancement package would also have to be extended to New Milford and is included in the cost description of the extension package. The extension package also includes infrastructure (track and bridge) improvements and addition of service to three new stations: Danbury North, Brookfield, and New Milford. During the three phases of service extension, the following additional or extended trips will be added:

 
  • extended existing AM and PM peak through trains to New Milford (3)
  • additional morning shuttles (2)
  • additional evening peak shuttle (2)
  • additional evening shuttles (2)
  • extended mid-day roundtrips to New Milford (3)
  • extended morning reverse (3) (2 to New Milford, 1 to Danbury North)
  • extended evening reverse (2) (1 to New Milford, 1 to Danbury North)
  • extended evening shuttles (2)
  • additional evening through (1) New York City – New Milford
  • extended mid-day roundtrips to Danbury North (3)

Bus/Shuttle Service Enhancements
The study recommended bus/shuttle enhancements for the study area to accompany the modifications to rail service. Bus service was recommended between Norwalk and Danbury along the Route 7 corridor between Norwalk’s Wheels Hub and Housatonic Area Regional Transit’s (HART) Pulse Point. The study also recommended adding HART service between the Pulse Point and the Danbury Rail Station and that a commuter connections study be conducted to analyze the need for train station connections to major employers.

Travel Demand Management Strategies
The Travel Demand Management (TDM) strategies portion provided several recommendations to increase ridership and provide additional mobility options for current riders. Suggestions were made on a station by station basis. Generally, the TDM strategies include:

 
  • Station enhancements (e.g. improved security, commuter information kiosks, etc.)
  • Evaluate feasibility of new rail stations in Norwalk (2) and Redding/Georgetown
  • Conduct an Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Study
  • Create linkages within the transit system (e.g. shuttles/bus service, pedestrian connections, bicycle facilities)
  • Investigate feasibility of Universal Transit Card
  • Conduct a Transit Oriented Development Feasibility Study
  • Enhance marketing of public transportation resources
  • Consider transit fare reduction to further stimulate increased transit ridership

Each of the TDM strategies is also associated with a general estimated cost by station. The three furthest north stations have low-cost opportunities where Branchville is in great need of improvement and has an associated high cost for TDM enhancement and the 3 southernmost stations have moderate costs associated with them.

Transit Oriented Service Support Strategies
There were six recommendations that relate to Transit Oriented Service Support strategies. The following institutional recommendations are made:

 
  • Establish a “Route 7 Travel Options Coalition”
  • Support ridesharing initiatives
  • Conduct a service evaluation and governance study to evaluate operating costs and cost structure for Danbury Line
  • Pursue extending Danbury Branch to Stamford
  • Evaluate feasibility of electrifying branch to Wilton
  • Consider formation of Transportation Management Agencies (TMA) as a potential long-term implementation strategy

The study included a market research section (Technical Memorandum #5 – Market Research Study). The most important travel option improvements noted by survey respondents were available and free parking at transit stations, transit fare reductions and simplified fare collection, additional morning peak hour trains, and extension of service to New Milford. A station-by-station analysis indicated that most survey respondents rated security as the most important station enhancement needed. The market research survey indicated strong support for the express bus service along Route 7 between Danbury and Norwalk. Shuttle services received a particularly high level of support.

The rail service enhancements were projected to increase ridership by 649 daily riders and the service expansions were projected to net an additional 559 daily riders. The proposed route 7 corridor bus service was projected to create 208 new daily bus trips. With all the recommendations for the Route 7 corridor region, the benefits of the implementation plan are reduced traffic volume, improved air quality, and the maximization of public infrastructure investments by increased transit capacity. These changes and benefits are important to the region because of the projected growth in population and highway congestion in the near future. The Danbury Line is expected to have a 70% increase in riders between 1999 and 2025 even without the recommended improvements.

Traffic volume was projected to decrease by 2,000 cars per day with 1,600 of those cars removed from the road close to the I-95 intersection in the southern section of the corridor. These volume reductions are also anticipated to improve east-west corridor traffic along I-95, Route 15, and Route 1.

After the study was completed and the recommendations were made, the final suggestion was to create a Route 7 Travel Options Action Coalition. The purpose of the coalition would be to oversee the implementation of the study recommendations, to prioritize projects, to identify who will implement the changes, to identify sources of funding, and to lobby for implementation with government officials.

Study Sections
 

Route 7 Corridor Travel Options Implementation Plan
Danbury Branch Line Shuttle Feasibility Study
Rail Transit Development Program
Danbury Branch Line Service Study
The Untapped Market for Rail Passenger Service
Action Plan for Restoring Passenger Rail Service to New Milford
Congestion Mitigation Systems Plan “Vision 2020”