The Travelers Championship isn’t the only thing worth cheering in Connecticut this week. Welcome, Hartford Line. Train lovers and tired drivers have long been waiting for you.
There’s so much pent-up demand, in fact, that way too many travelers showed up for the line’s free maiden voyage over the weekend, and buses had to be called in.
Why such enthusiasm? People love trains. They’re romantic and relaxing, and a lot more reading can get done in a rail car without getting carsick.
It’s also inexpensive and fast. The train from Hartford to New Haven is $8, and the trip takes less than an hour. Added bonus: The Hartford Line competition is driving train ticket prices down on the Amtrak line.
And commuters can park for free at some stations — Windsor Locks, for example — and take advantage of Hartford’s free Dash shuttle from Union Station to the Convention Center, the XL Center, the state Capitol, even the Yard Goats’ Dunkin’ Donuts Park.
This much-anticipated train service almost didn’t happen. It’s thanks to Florida’s curious distaste for mass transit. Florida Gov. Rick Scott turned down federal transit funds in 2011, which this state then scooped up. It’s rare that Connecticut says this, but thank you, Florida.
Floridians may not care for trains, but they have proved to be an elegant, efficient, environmentally better way to move people from city to city. Trains encourage tourism, housing and jobs along their routes. They reduce pollution and dependence on oil. Plus, they are just plain fun. There’s a reason why they’re so popular in the most charming cities in Europe.
Few new ventures happen without hiccups, and the Hartford Line is no exception. The train restrooms are locked — a bummer — until they comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, hopefully by the end of the year. Some cars didn’t have air conditioning over the weekend. The rail cars aren’t the newest, though newer ones will arrive eventually.
But here’s the good news: A train ride sure beats sitting in exhaust fumes on Interstate 91. And you can nap.
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