For many Americans across the country, unaccessible and unaffordable transportation presents a significant barrier when it comes to accessing stable jobs, training and educational opportunities, and workforce development services.
Since access to transportation is one of the most critical factors when it comes to escaping from poverty, a lack of readily accessible mobility options can have a chilling effect on job growth and economic development across entire communities and states. Barriers to transportation can make it difficult for individuals to access higher-paying jobs or training opportunities needed to drive economic mobility, while also making it more difficult for companies to retain employees or for states to attract new residents.
To better meet the needs of under-resourced residents and workers, Connecticut recently launched a program, known as CTpass, to offer eligible organizations across the state with access to discounted rates for public transportation services. The hope is that the program, administered by the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT), will make public transit services more accessible for low-income workers and students across the state.
Removing barriers to transportation to increase job growth
CTpass will allow certain students, employees, trainees, and clients of eligible organizations that provide training programs and other related services to use certain public transit services across the state for free or at reduced fares. The program is designed to address some of the transit barriers that have an outsized impact on Connecticut’s lower-paid workforce, particularly residents enrolled in workforce training and adult education programs.
The program evolved out of Connecticut Governor Ned Lemont’s 2020 Workforce Council Strategic Plan, which identified a lack of accessible transportation services as a significant barrier to equity for many of the state’s residents. First proposed by the governor last year as a way of boosting workforce development, CTpass was included in Connecticut’s 2022-2023 biennial state budget passed by the state legislature last June.
“This is an innovative way for private employers, schools, job training service providers, social service providers, and other organizations to increase access to Connecticut’s bus and rail system,” Governor Lamont said in a press release announcing the launch of CTpass. “Affordable transportation to workforce training, educational programs, and employment continues to be one of the largest impediments for individuals with low incomes, and this program seeks to address those needs.”
CTpass closely follows the model of a similar program, known as the U-Pass CT program, that was launched in 2017 by CTDOT and some of the state’s higher education institutions. U-Pass CT gives students attending participating public colleges and universities access to the state’s rail and bus systems for a nominal and flat fee. Nineteen public higher education institutions are currently participating in the U-Pass CT program, which allows participating students to access unlimited rides on local and express bus services, as well as state rail lines and some Amtrak trains operating between the cities of New Haven and Springfield.
Targeting the program to the needs of riders
Since public bus services across Connecticut will remain fare-free until the beginning of December as a result of high gasoline prices and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the official rollout of CTpass services has been delayed so organizations and individuals can continue to utilize free bus services.
James Stutz, a transportation supervising planner with CTDOT, said that, once bus fares resume on December 1, CTDOT plans to quickly move forward with accepting eligible organizations into the CTpass program.
“Although the program opened for applications of interest on January 1, 2022, no one is participating yet,” Stutz said.
Eligible organizations in the state, however, can now submit an initial application for inclusion in the program, which CTDOT will review and then follow up on to better streamline access to needed transit services. The initial application includes questions about the size and focus of eligible organizations, their employees’ transit needs, and what the organization is looking to get out of the CTpass program. Organizations can also select multiple options from a list of 23 different transit services and providers participating in the CTpass program to better meet their employees’ specific travel needs.
Following submission of the initial application, the CTDOT commissioner and staff will work with the eligible organizations to negotiate the terms and conditions of their respective transportation contracts. The first contract for eligible organizations will be for a 12-month period, and eligible organizations that renew their contracts under the program will be eligible to extend their contracts for a term of no more than two years.
The hope is that CTpass, once fully up and running, will provide Connecticut residents in need of transportation to their jobs or training opportunities with more direct and affordable access to a host of transit services across the state.
“Public transportation plays a critical role in eliminating barriers to education and the economy,” Connecticut Department of Transportation Deputy Commissioner Garrett Eucalitto said. “The CTpass program has the potential to make a big difference in making Connecticut more accessible for students, employees, and job seekers alike.”