On Evening Bus Service in the City of Waterbury, Connecticut

Last Updated Sep 2012


Oct. 24 marked the beginning of an important new chapter in the history of Waterbury, as many gathered at Nau­gatuck Valley Community College to celebrate the first evening bus ride in Waterbury in 80 years. Bringing evening buses to Waterbury has been a long and enduring effort that has spanned decades and continued be­cause of many caring and engaged community leaders and elected offi­cials.

The deal was finally cemented by multiple efforts of community mem­bers, students, faculty, staff and ad­ministration at Naugatuck Valley Community College, and through the leadership of our elected and appoint­ed officials in Hartford and the Depart­ment of Transportation. This pilot program is supported by a federal grant that provided the bulk of the dol­lars needed to make this happen.

The grant was designated for this purpose because NVCC student gov­ernment conducted a referendum in academic year 2010-11 among students that resulted in a self-imposed student transportation fee to complete the fi­nancial package. This enabled our del­egation to lobby for the necessary supplemental state support.

The arrangement will be in place for at least the next three years. NVCC stu­dents’ fees will go to the bus company into the fare box, so they are now enti­tled to an unlimited bus pass seven days per week, daytime and evenings.

This system (The U pass) has been in effect for only 60 days and already av­erages 600 rides per day.

Some have questioned the need for bus service in the evening; some ap­pear unaware 20 percent of the house­holds in Waterbury do not own a car and have been denied, de facto, access to the city and its institutions after 5:30 p.m. When a city continues to have se­vere and chronic unemployment, can we afford to ignore the needs of that 20 percent? Do the chances of that 20 per­cent to move upward, buy automobiles and become members of the middle class improve with better access to ed­ucation and jobs? Is it right that state government should subsidize evening bus service in Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport but not in Waterbury? I doubt many in Waterbury agree with that practice.

Evening bus service in Waterbury makes sense. Here are some consider­ations:

■  Enhanced bus service will reduce what transportation experts call “the mobility gap” between car owners and people who do not own cars, thus en­abling lower-income people to get around more easily and efficiently.

This, in turn, has significant effects on the long-term labor market participa­tion of those low-income people. This is particularly true if the bus service is going to be connecting clusters of un­employed people with centers of em­ployment or education.

For the last 40 years, urban re­searchers have documented “the spa­tial mismatch,” wherein the poor and unemployed are separated geographi­cally from access to jobs and educa­tional opportunities, resulting in a lack of access because of a lack of mobility.

The additional mass-transit opportuni­ties offered actually will have a tangi­ble benefit to the overall economy of the city and should eventually have a positive impact on the unemployment rate.

■  Enhanced bus service will make the workforce of Waterbury more reli­able and accountable in getting to work or school for two reasons. Buses will reduce the volume of cars on the road, so there will be less congestion and less possibility of a delay when there is an accident or breakdown. Also, low-in­come car owners often own older, un­reliable cars. A bus will allow them to get to and from their place of employ­ment or education.

Regardless of the causes, unantici­pated delays in worker arrival hurt lo­cal business owners and the employees who may have their jobs threatened by lack of reliable attendance.

■  Public transportation and buses, in particular, tend to be cheaper than au­tomobiles because the costs of driving include gasoline, parking costs and perhaps most critically, maintenance costs, which, again, are higher for low­income people driving older cars than for wealthier people driving newer cars. Other significant costs include in­surance premiums and Connecticut’s tax on automobiles.

If we believe in equality of opportu­nity, evening bus service is one of many small ways we can put that belief into practice.

Mass transit and public transporta­tion are a part of the fabric of life in democratic societies. It is a credit to many in Waterbury that this basic con­cept of fairness has been enhanced with the institution of a much needed and deserved service for all of us who live in this beautiful city.

Daisy Cocco De Filippis is president of Naugatuck Valley Community Col­lege in Waterbury.

Source:

De Filippis, Daisy Cocco. "Evening Bus Service Is Here At Last." Republican American [Waterbury, CT] 13 November 2011, Final Edition: A13.