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NEW YORK to SPRINGFIELD, MA by LOCAL bus!!

May 1, 2012

Traveling between New York and Springfield to see my [paternal] grandmother, I always noticed how different New England cities looked. What always stood out were the dark wooden “back porches” on the backs of nearly every pre-war apartment building, frame house and townhouse (including my grandmother’s) which served both as balcony and fire escape (back stairs). I felt so away from home with our flimsy looking thin fire escapes you had to climb out the window to get to, and you wern’t supposed to be out there anyway. I always wanted to see the gradual change from New York to New England, when passing by the cities in between on the Greyhound, Trailways or Peter Pan on the interstates. Since the cities in Westchester, and southern Connecticut were all close together; I wondered if their bus systems connected. I eventually find that they do, with the not too long ago added “Coastal Link” between Norwalk and Milford completing the way to New Haven. And then, with easy access to the Connecticut Transit website; I find that connection all the way to Springfield is in fact possible. But there was a very narrow “window” it had to be done in. Starting out early from NYC, by the time you get into central Connecticut, it will be late afternnon, and buses in towns will stop running soon, including the final Hartford to Springfield connection, which are commuter runs. So I set out in April, 2003, attempting to go all the way from home via the Q58 to Flushing, to the QBx1 to Pelham Bay Park for the W45 to New Rochelle, to the W61 to Port Chester for the Connecticut leg of the trip. But I just miss the 45, and they are two hours apart. So by now a Transit worker, I hang out at the Pelham crew room (totally foreign to me, as I had never worked the IRT yet), and then continue. I then have a long wait in New Rochelle. This really set me back, and by the time I get to New Haven, it is 6PM, dark, and I knew I had to turn back (by Metro North). So I set out again on Oct. 28 of that year, took the train and picked the W61 up directly at Fordham, and this time made it!


W61Fordham
Port Chester
6:30
7:58
Flx. Metro #814 $2.00
CT 11Port Chester
Stamford
8:02 (late 7:45)
Flyer DLF40 #T
42Stamford
Norwalk
9:01
9:47
MCI Classic #9633 (first ride
In Series 50 powered Classic)
T
Coastal
Link
Norwalk
Milford
9:50
11:43
RTS #130 (Norwalk “Wheel”
Bus)
$1.25
O5Milford
New Haven
11:40MCI Classic #9179T
C1New Haven
Meriden (Kohl’s Plaza)
12:30
1:35
MCI Classic #9096$1.00
AKohl’s Plaza
Downtown
 RTS #A107T
BDowntown
Westfield Shoppingtown (formerly Meriden Plaza)
2:00
2:15
RTS$1.00
ARWestfield
New Britain
3:00
RTS #B141T
PNew Britain
Hartford
3:25
4:08
RTS #C155T
CT 5Hartford
Enfield
4:15
MCI 102DL(?) #305$2.35
PVTA 16Enfield
Springfield (Bball Hall of Fame)
4:45
5:00
RTS #1120 (35 ft)$1.00

TOTALS: 10:30 (from Fordham); 12:00 (from home; left at 5AM); $8.60

I left like I was usually doing on another day of the week for the 6:35 D203 job at 205th. I missed the L, which then makes me miss the 4 and D that would get me to 205th on time. This time, to try to catch the 6:30 W61, I stayed on the 4, got off at Fordham, and ran across towards the little park the 61 begins at. Before I reached the Concourse, I saw a Bee-Line parked on the triangle block where 188th St. splits off of Fordham on the West side of the Concourse. I ran, and it was the 6:30, and he was getting ready to leave, and let me get on there, since I wouldn’t have made it to the boarding location across the Concourse and a few blocks down.
Pretty Lucky.

I see a CT 11 bus at Port Chester earlier than the 8:12 on the schedule, so I decide to get on, and he only goes as far as Stamford. Most other 11’s become 41’s to Norwalk at Stamford, so I got an extra transfer.

Everything went well, and I basically kept moving continuously (no long waits) until Meriden, where I find that it was not the simple transfer to New Britain that I thought. I had glossed over the schedules online, and saw that the New Haven “C” went to a Meriden shopping center, and connected with an “A”, and that the New Britain “A” bus also started from a Meriden shopping center. (CT uses a lot of letter routes). What I didn’t realize was that these were two different shopping centers on the opposite side of town, and two additional buses were needed to connect: from Kohl’s Plaza to the downtown train station, and from there to the former Meriden Plaza, which has been renamed Westfield Shoppingtown (further adding to the confusion). They all connected fairly well, but it put me behind. I thought I would be leaving Meriden for New Britain at 2:00 and then New Britain for Hartford at 2:50, with about 20 minutes to spare at both places, but I wound up leaving Meriden RR sta. at 2 for Westfield instead, and it got there 15 minutes after the hourly “AR” to New Britain had left. So I had 45 minutes there to get something to eat, and look around, but now I was leaving the Meriden area an hour behind at 3. I got to New Britain just in time to catch the 3:25 “P”, and this got me to Hartford in time to catch a 4:15 Enfield express (It only had listed a 4:10 followed by a 4:20, the latter missing the 4:45 PVTA #16 (the Springfied system’s connector), and the next and last one after that would be 6:21, almost 2 hours later). I had to find the boarding location for the #5 in Hartford, and luckily, it was right around the corner from where the P left off, and was pulling up. Now this seemed sort of like a cheat, as this route travels on the 91 nonstop, and uses MCI commuter coaches, and therefore was little different from catching the Peter Pan, except that it boarded curbside instead of at the terminal, and stopped at this intermediate town. (I had never seen any of the towns between Hartford and Springfield before, as the interstate coaches never made any stops in that stretch). The whole way up so far, I had only been on regular roads, such as US 1 and 5, with stops and lights about as frequent as in a city.
So even after that hour setback, I made the PVTA connection, but even though the transfer ticket collectors look the same, they do not take CT transfers (makes no sense to me, as the Bee Line and CT transfer to each other).

It was now dark, around 5. I had been trying to do this for months since the March attempt, but have been too busy or tired. I looked at the last Tues. before the daylight time shift, but was too tired, especially with the way they had been putting me on late PM jobs because the N wasn’t running on the weekend. I got to say hi to my aging grandmother, in a nursing home near the Basketball Hall of Fame (who was surprised to see me), and then left, returning by Peter Pan.
It was perhaps the best time to go, with all the fall foliage, in the farm areas in the New Haven to New Britain stretch.

So it was an interesting trip. Diehard bus fans and sightseers (with some extra time on their hands) should try it sometime! I may do it in reverse some time.

I later learn that there was at one time local connections all the way to the other city I was familiar with, which I never would have believed possible: Norfolk, VA! I recently discover that the DART system covers all of Delaware (not just Wilmington), and the Salisbury-based Seashore Transit covers all of Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Virginia’s Eastern Shore, which is even more rural than the other states, is covered by STAR Transit. They once had service to the MD line, where Seashore had a connecting service. They also had service across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel to Virginia Beach! Being that DART connects to SEPTA, and SEPTA connects to New Jersey Transit, it was connected all the way! (Though you would have to go out of the way to Lakewood, where the North and South Jersey bus systems connect, and these lines use modified coaches, which would make it feel like riding an interstate line. However, all the service in Maryland and Virginia is with vans, and not even real buses). Due to lack of funds, connecting service between T’s Corner or Chincoteague, VA, and Pocomoke City, MD was discontinued as well as service south of Cape Charles, over the bay. I never imagined all of those little towns I used to pass through on the way home from college were or would be connected like that, other than the interstate coach! I guess because of the isolated nature of the Delmarva Peninsula, with only the main US 13 corridor, traffic is focused either north or south, so transportation would be useful, (especially now that Greyhound/Carolina Trailways has cut most of the stops from the run).
Unlike the Connecticut connection, this probably was not doable in one day, anyway. Not only is it much longer (more than twice the distance), but you do not have the string of moderate sized cities you have between New York and Springfield. It is mostly small towns; large stretches of farmland, and the small cities of Pocomoke, Salisbury and Dover. So those van services would have limited runs as it is, and by the time you traveled a certain distance, it would be night, and it all would be shut down. Yet it would be a nice thing to do over two or three days, staying overnight in the towns along the way!

Eight years after completing the Springfield trip, I would follow it up with an also long-planned similar trip to Montauk. It was the ultimate extension of the December Long Island holiday decoration viewing trips, which at first were confined to western Nassau, then Eastern Nassau, and then as far as Bablyon where the Nassau bus system ends.
It kept getting put off for a few years, because of just getting tired as I get older, plus being caught out there in the cold at night.

I finally pushed myself to do it in ’11, due to the uncertainty of the impending Veolia (private) takeover of MTA Long Island Bus (the Nassau System), with earlier talk under MTA of massive cuts on the systems (like the whole southeast corner of Nassau). So on my winter vacation (by now able to get as late as early December), and a warm day though very dreary, I set out early in the morning.

From Jamaica:
N4 7:12 8:10 (#1676)
Freeport
N19 8:15 9:17 (#1723)
Babylon
S40 9:30 10:20 (#9923)
Patchogue
S66 10:30 11:50 (#1034)
Riverhead County Center
S92 11:55 1:15 (#1065)
East Hampton
10C 1:35 (#1075)
to Montauk RR station

I wanted to ride around the whole loop, but it passes the railroad station first (clockwise), and the train left a little whole after that (2:51). The next one after that leaves after 10PM and doesn’t get back to Jamaica until after 2! (This later trip was my original idea, but then I just replotted it in the earlier window. since it was daytime, I couldn’t see any lights until the return trip, and it was hard to see with the rain and fogged windows).

On the way back, I stopped at East Meadow to see the RXR Plaza tree (it was raining again).

I had only been in Eastern LI twice before, both on fishing trips we were driven to. ’80, to Sag Harbor, and ’82, to Montauk.

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3 Comments
  1. Looks like this trip would be much easier now; at least the difficult central Connecticut portion.

    Happened to look for the house of a friend of the family in Marlborough, which was not along the path of my journey, but rather off way to the east of the Meriden area, which was the really difficult portion (see above). I find he has died several years ago. Having spent nights there, it was one of my favorite houses anywhere, with it’s moderate sized airy, sunny layout with a nice living room facing the east across from the dining room facing west [edit: finally finding the house; it was on the other side of the road and thus reverse of what I thought I remembered. I was usually there at night anyway, and may have gotten it confused with another house I stayed at] and the bedrooms upstairs. Years ago, I used to design houses on the Sims games patterned after that layout. (My wife thought I was being too modest, as she believed in taking the artistic license of the game to build huge mansions).

    So, curious as to whether the Hartford bus system reached that town, I find the express system map, and see that line 914 to Colchester does stops there, but also, now there’s a route straight to New Haven! (950, which goes through Meriden. There’s also a 919 that ends in Meriden).
    I’m sure these are parlor coaches, like the one on the 5 to Enfield, which is now the 905, and again, that feels like riding on an interstate coach, minus the restroom; and this one also uses the I-91! Wikipedia says it’s operated by Peter Pan/Arrow.

    So also, they’ve just redesignated (June) the routes in that entire portion of the state (including New Britain), creating an extensive continuous number system like New Jersey, so now, only New Haven still has its old letter routes, and that’s set to change next month!
    So to redo my trip with the new routes, staring in Port Chester

    11: 311
    41: 342
    O: 261
    C: 215M
    A: 564
    B: 561 [Note: A and B, above, may have been gotten backwards]
    AR: 501
    P: 41
    5: 905

    Basically:
    30-96: Hartford
    100’s: Hartford-New Britain busway (“CT Fastrack” ), built mostly in part of a railroad ROW
    200’s: New Haven; Wallingford
    300’s: Stamford
    400’s: Waterbury
    500’s: New Britain-Bristol
    900’s: expresses

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