A study of options to reduce congestion and increase mobility throughout the Route 8 and Waterbury Branch Rail Line corridors
About the Study
The Route 8 & Waterbury Branch Line Corridor/Alternative Modes Study is assessing the needs and opportunities for improving service on the Waterbury Branch Line and the feasibility of alternatives to single occupancy vehicles. These alternative modes include commuter rail, express bus and Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), walking and biking. The project is being led by AECOM Technical Services, Inc. The study team has completed an overview of existing travel conditions within the corridor, an assessment of transit-oriented development opportunities within rail station areas, and the feasibility of instituting BRT service. A website has been set up to provide project details. Click here to access the Alt Modes Study website.
Transit Rider Input
In support of the study goals and objectives, the NVCOG conducted an on-board count and survey of passengers riding the Waterbury branch line trains. All inbound and outbound trains were counted and surveyed over a three-day period. The goals of the survey were to gain insight into the key concerns passengers have with quality and frequency of service.
Take a look at what the riders had to say about train service in the Naugatuck Valley: WBL Passenger Count Summary.
An important task of the study was determining the feasibility of Transit-Oriented Developments (TOD) in the vicinity of the Waterbury rail line stations. A TOD integrates land use, transportation, and the environment and results in new housing, jobs, and more sustainable and walkable communities. They are characterized by compact, mixed-use land uses that provide a wide range of housing styles and commercial space choices. To guide the assessment, the study team conducted a series of workshops in each community along the rail line and developed a Visual Preference Survey that allowed residents to describe how they would like to see their downtowns in the future. From these preference surveys, model TOD blocks were created. To read more about possible TOD scenarios in the Naugatuck Valley: TOD Scenario Report
Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)
While the primary objective of the study is to improve and enhance service on the Waterbury line, other transit actions were also explored. Regular fixed-route bus services operate in the corridor, but they do not provide travel time efficiencies that commuters find attractive. A BRT operation blends the positive features of rail with the flexibility of bus transit, to make riding the bus a higher-end service alternative. The study team explored the merits of enhancing bus service between Derby and Bridgeport, identifying five possible alternatives. The preferred option included the construction of a dedicated busway within the median of Route 8 with limited stops at newly created transit hubs. Feeder bus services would be implemented to move travelers from the transit hubs to their final destinations. This action is considered a long-term vision for the corridor. To learn more about BRT in Naugatuck Valley: BRT Scenario Report
The study is advancing to the final recommendations with a focus on a capital and operations improvement plan for the Waterbury Rail Line and a long-term vision of developing a Bus Rapid Transit system along Route 8 between Derby and Bridgeport. A visualization of recommended services is being developed and the study team will be meeting with municipal representatives to promote TOD land uses.
In the meantime, the NVCOG is working with its mayors, first selectmen, and its state legislative delegation to support funding for needed short-term Waterbury rail line improvements. In January 2020, NVCOG held the Naugatuck Valley Rail Conference to engage stakeholders in a dialog about the region’s rail needs.
Watch statewide news coverage of the event here.