The Untapped Market for Rail Passenger Service

In August 1983, this report was prepared for HVCEO by SG Associates of Boston, MA. The purpose of the report was to describe the current passenger rail service conditions in a persuasive and professional manner in order to justify improvements to the service. Present and former HVCEO members as well as state legislators from the region have a long history of lobbying for the maintenance and improvement of passenger service.

As of 1979, there were 927 daily round trips taken on the Danbury Line and nearly all traveled to New York City. A significant untapped market existed that was composed of persons living in the Housatonic Region and working in southwestern Connecticut (intrastate commuters). The total number of people was 13,902 living and work in this scenario, of which 5,478 (39%) worked within walking distance of a rail station or had access to employer-based shuttle service. If everyone within 2 miles of rail stations had an employer shuttle available, the potential rail market would be 10,971. This potential passenger market was untapped because service was infrequent and required transfers.

Other potential Danbury Line commuters were identified as using the Harlem Line (400 people) and in Brookfield and New Milford. Four hundred Housatonic Valley residents used the Harlem Line in New York to commute to New York City. Nearly 2,200 people commuting from Brookfield and New Milford to other Housatonic Valley towns represented another potential rail rider market (40% of the 5,482 total commuters).

The HVCEO study recommended several service improvement options to reach the potential rail commuter markets currently untapped. The strongest recommendation was electrification. Other service strategies evaluated were express versus local stop service on the Danbury Line and the extent of shuttle service available at destination stations.

Electrification was expected to generate savings in energy consumption, reduce maintenance costs, and generate new ridership, but would require major capital improvements prior to electrification. Annual revenue, fixed capital investment, annual operating costs, and increases in ridership for each of the different options were also estimated.

Electrification was projected to increase ridership from 27 to 300 based on reduced travel times and greater service frequency. The potential to reach ridership of 590 was projected if maximum shuttle service was implemented. Reverse commute options were expected produce ridership between 36 and 118 if the local service option was adopted and between 68 and 169 if the express service option was chosen. It was also estimated that electrification would sway 70% of the Housatonic Valley residents currently using the Harlem Line to switch to the Danbury Line (280 people). Employment growth at Merritt 7 was also noted as a potential area for rail passenger service. If a Merritt 7 Station were created, between 56 and 73 daily rail trips were estimated to be added. Increased ridership would create new parking demands. The worst parking shortfall was anticipated at Danbury with a maximum of 643 spaces, and Bethel also was predicted to have parking shortfalls between 55 and 127 spaces.

Given the ridership and cost projections, the study listed the following recommendations:

  • Implement electrified, express service from Danbury with 3 peak express runs and 3 peak local stop runs
  • Do not extend service to New Milford
  • Construct the Danbury Transportation Terminal with the maximum number of parking spaces
  • If the local service alternative is implemented instead, a new station should be constructed between Bethel and Danbury
  • Serve the Merritt 7 Complex only if the Danbury Line is electrified

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”