CT returns free summer shuttles to seven of the most popular state parks and beaches

The ParkConneCT program, which provides free shuttles and enhanced transit to many state parks and beaches during the summer, returns this year, with the addition of free buses for the rest of the year.

Launched last year to increase access and encourage residents to explore Connecticut’s recreational opportunities, the ParkConneCT program provides free transportation to seven of the state’s busiest parks and beaches, according to a statement from the Department of Transport.

The program returns this year, from Memorial Day weekend, May 28, through Labor Day, Sept. 5, according to the release.

Speaking at Hammonasset Beach State Park on Friday, May 27, 2022, Governor Ned Lamont, DEEP Commissioner Katie Dykes, and DOT Commissioner Joe Giulietti, among others, touted the park’s free buses and shuttles. ‘State.

Abigail Brone/Hearst Connecticut Media

Similar to last summer’s program, passengers will be dropped off at a safe location within a 10-minute walk of the destination beach or park.

Free transportation is provided to: Hammonasset Beach, Silver Sands, Fort Trumbull, Osbornedale, Indian Well, Sleeping Giant and Sherwood Island State Parks.

Parks were chosen for the program based on seasonal employment levels, summer recreational activities, frequently visited tourist destinations and existing service connections, according to the release.

Bus and shuttle routes were selected by performing analysis using geospatial information systems and prioritizing areas where the most cost-effective improvements could be made to connect people to the parks, the statement said. .

Last year, depending on the day of the week, passengers may have had to pay for part of the ride before switching to a free ParkConneCT shuttle.

This year, however, the entire ride on public buses will be free.

“Last year, Governor Lamont turned around and said, ‘Can we come up with a program to make sure we maintain access to all of our parks?’ This year, in addition to what we are doing with parks, the governor has extended free buses. This will continue through the end of the year,” DOT Commissioner Joe Giulietti told Hammonasset Friday morning.

Excluding premium ridership programs, such as Wheels2U, all public buses in Connecticut are free this year through December 1.

All buses associated with ParkConneCT and its shuttles will run free through Labor Day, and all regular public buses will run without charging fares through December, according to the DOT statement.

“The parks program provides access to parks between Memorial and Labor Day, but what the governor has done is that all public buses operated will continue through the end of the year,” said Giulietti. “So it’s not going to change access to those parks. We only provide access during this time as that is when they are actually open. »

The free bus program was launched in April as part of Lamont’s efforts to ease pressure from rising inflation and gas prices. The original program was scheduled to end in June but has been extended through the fiscal year 2023 budget, according to a statement from Lamont’s office.

Bus ridership has increased significantly since the free program began in April, although it can be unclear whether the increase is due to warmer weather or free rides, the DOT spokesperson previously said. , Josh Morgan.

The state follows three local urban routes – in Hartford, Stamford and New Haven – as well as CTfastrak and the Expressway. According to DOT data, all but the Expressway saw large increases in service between March and April.

New Haven bus routes saw the biggest increase in ridership between March and April, with a 71% increase from pre-COVID-19 levels in March to 86% in April, the data showed.

Along with the ParkConneCT program, the state is continuing its “Passport to Parks” program, which allows cars with Connecticut license plates to visit state parks for free, the Energy and Climate Commissioner said. environmental protection, Katie Dykes.

Not only will free rides to some of the state’s most popular parks increase visitation and allow residents to explore Connecticut more, but it will also benefit the local economy, Dykes said.

“You can enter and visit all of our state parks without paying parking fees. This means that when people come to Hammonasset, they can come and enjoy the park and not have to stay here all day, but actually getting to Madison,” Dykes said. “It also contributes to the thriving local economy of the communities that host our parks.”

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