For a town to be sustainable it must continue to ascertain and address the needs of its citizens, and anticipate what those needs may be in the future. An aspect of this is to look at our residents and identify who may experience barriers to transportation or mobility based on economic conditions, physical ability, age or geographic location within our town.
Approximately 37% of the population of Southbury is 60 or older.1 Currently, transportation options for residents 60+ of age or who are disabled, are available through the town’s Senior Center, without requiring membership.
But what is available for the remaining residents with no access to an automobile? The state is investing millions in the Waterbury branch of the New Haven rail line2 but there is no public connectivity there from Southbury. The quiet exit of services to town by Peter Pan Lines reflects a growing decline in ridership, especially since the pandemic. With Uber, Lyft and other “New Mobility” options popping up in recent years, there’s a threat to the essentialness of buses.3 Yet buses remain a more affordable way to move people around, which may be increasingly essential for the 28% of Southbury residents not making ends meet.4
Accessing the mobility of a community is more than its motorized choices. It includes examining the layout of the town to see how accessible it is by foot or by bicycle. How pedestrian-friendly are the streets? Can people safely and enjoyably walk to the businesses and other areas? Are our roads built for cars, with high speeds and heavy traffic, or for people? Are we encouraging people to come downtown? How much of the town has sidewalks and are they wide enough? Do we encourage biking, with bike lanes and ride sharing programs? Do we have electric vehicle charging stations? Do we need more benches; more crosswalks? These kinds of questions are necessary as we plan for, and implement projects that provide inclusive and safer mobility and access for all roadway users – including pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users, and motor vehicles – regardless of age, ability, income, or ethnicity.
The town’s award-winning streetscape, with its mile-long, lantern-lit sidewalks along Main Street South, attracts visitors and residents alike. It promotes foot traffic to our businesses and encourages a healthy lifestyle for our residents who walk it daily. Increased traffic concerns along this corridor led to a recent Pedestrian Safety Study. The town’s Plan of Conservation and Development, a study commissioned every ten years, is currently underway for 2022. It is the residents’ opportunity to envision what it wants the town to be over the next decade. Share your thoughts and shape the Southbury you want to see. Learn more at: www.southbury-ct.org/POCD.
For more on the town’s pursuit of sustainability, visit: www.southbury-ct.org/sustainableCT or www.sustainablesouthbury.org.
- 5-year American Community Survey (2015-2019): https://data.census.gov/cedsci/table?g=0600000US0900969640&tid=ACSST5Y2019.S0101
- Governor Lamont Highlights Major Upgrades Coming to Waterbury Branch of the New Haven Line, Says Federal Infrastructure Bill Will Bring Additional Improvements to Connecticut: https://portal.ct.gov/Office-of-the-Governor/News/Press-Releases/2021/11-2021/Governor-Lamont-Highlights-Major-Upgrades-Coming-to-Waterbury-Branch-of-the-New-Haven-Line
- Graehler, Mucci and Erhardt, “Understanding the Recent Transit Ridership Decline in Major US Cities: Service Cuts or Emerging Modes,” 2019: https://trid.trb.org/view/1572517
- 2020 ALICE Report Executive Summary: https://www.southbury-ct.org/filestorage/20558/33546/ALICE_2020_Executive_Summary__8.25.2020.pdf
Economic Development Director
Town of Southbury
[This article first appeared in Southbury Neighbors magazine.]