Rail travel builds
The number of riders utilizing Shore Line East service continues to steadily build, a credit to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's support for the commuter rail service even during tough fiscal times.
Mass transportation reduces cars on our crowded highways. It supports local economic development. And the availability of Shore Line East can boost New London's housing stock by making the city an affordable option for workers commuting to jobs further west along the shoreline.
In 2010, 585,218 riders took Shore Line East trains, a number that grew to 657,832 riders in 2013. Shore Line East ridership hit a monthly record 63,959 passenger trips in July. The Hartford Courant recently reported that ridership is up another 1 percent this year over the same period in 2013.
Under the Malloy administration, the heavily subsidized Shore Line East has expanded weekday and weekend service, necessary to make the trains a viable option to getting in the car. The majority of Shore Line East train rides go no further east than Old Saybrook, after originating in New Haven. Stops are made in Westbrook, Clinton, Madison, Guilford and Branford.
However, six trains on weekdays and eight on weekends travel as far east as New London, accounting for roughly one-quarter of Shore Line East ridership on the weekends.
Service quality should improve in 2016 when the state Department of Transportation expects to begin using modern M-8 electric cars for Shore Line East, the same vehicles now used for the Metro North commuter service from western Connecticut to New York City. The local service now uses older, diesel engines.
Amtrak, federally subsidized, has helped Connecticut's efforts by honoring Shore Line East tickets on its Train 174 departing from New Haven at 8:37 a.m. and arriving in New London at 9:26 a.m. It also honored Shore Line East tickets on Train 190 departing New Haven at 3:44 p.m. and arriving in New London at 4:35 p.m.
Amtrak had planned to end any acceptance of Shore Line East tickets until the Malloy administration intervened, persuading it to continue, a decision announced last week. Such cooperation makes sense, given the shared goal to boost train ridership as an alternative to car travel.