Coastal Link (US-1/Bridgeport/WHEELS Hub)

Oh boy, this one’s a doozy. So, who wants to ride a bus for 2 hours straight? Yeah, me neither. I’m not exactly an “extreme commuter” or anything like that. However, we do have a route that fits the “let’s ride a bus for 2 hours” bill. Meet: the Coastal Link.

Some backstory: So, I first found out about this route through a Miles in Transit video where he rode it the other way (Norwalk-Milford). At that point, I haven’t even considered making this blog yet, and when I did make it I wanted to do the Coastal Link, just for how long it is. Sounds fun, right? Then, I wrote my entry on the 261, and came to LOATHE stroads for the lack of anything interesting to say about them. That’s when I said “oh dear god no” when I saw that the Coastal Link was on my todo list. And, while it isn’t the longest bus I’ve ridden for distance (that’s the 95X), it definitely is the longest route by runtime (by bus, beating the 14’s two branches). So, let’s get into this 2 hour marathon.

Leaving the mall

So, waiting at the mall after getting off the 271, all seems normal, right? Where’s the bus? It’s supposed to be laying over! I check the tracker, nothing. One bus even DISAPPEARED. My first thought was “oh crap” until 10:25 (3 minutes late!), a Milford Transit bus pulls in with the destination sign reading “CL COASTAL LINK”.

That explains it, because Milford Transit doesn’t even have GTFS or tracking of any kind. So, aboard the bus and off we go, down Route 1. Oh dear god, stroads…

I WALK TO BURGER KING, THEN I WALK BACK HOME FROM BURGER KING!!!
Nah, we ain’t expressing. That’s cheating!

So, we go down Route 1, turn down a street into downtown Milford, and down Broad Street. At this point, we’re in flag stop territory as Milford Transit doesn’t really have signed bus stops. Several people got on, and we high tailed it out, turning onto South Broad and eventually Bridgeport Avenue. Fortunately, it was a straight shot into Stratford and deviation #1 (2? Would the mall count?)

Cumby’s!
Shop-Rite!
Crossing a small creek
Milford’s Metro-North station
Founder’s House
I don’t even remember what this was
Another restaurant
Eww, car dependency
Is that a playground?
OH MY GOD IT’S A PONZI SCHEME!
A shopping plaza
I said NO CHEATING!!!
Yep. Still in New England.
Devon Center!
The- *checks pronunciation*
The hauser tonic river????? Did I get that right?
HAUSER TONICS?!
…A Family Place! (despite being a strip mall largely)

Alrighty, now that we crossed the… *looks at pronunciation key*

Hauser Tonic River? Did I get that? They named a river after Stjepan Hauser?! Oh, oh HOOSA-tonic. Damn, that’s disappointing.

After crossing the Housatonic River, we entered Stratford, left flag stop territory (stops were signed), and deviated to The Dock Shopping Center, and a double deviation to Stop & Shop specifically. Upon finishing this, we turned onto Barnum Avenue, passing a Walmart. Turning down Main St. brings us past Stratford’s Metro-North station. From here, we pressed on further down Main St., eventually turning down Stratford Avenue, and soon enough entering Bridgeport. At this point, we had townhouses lining the streets and, while it wasn’t the best-looking area, it wasn’t the worst either. Around here was where ridership started to pick up, with the bus eventually reaching about 80% capacity. Yeah, I didn’t think I’d see a Milford Transit bus this full. As we pressed on, we crossed a couple more rivers, passed a Bass Pro Shops, and went under the interstate twice, passing homeless camps, until we deviated into the GBT Terminal.

Some more New Haven Line
Stop & Shop
GODDAMMIT, EVEN ON MY DAYS OFF I CAN’T ESCAPE THE WALTONS
A GBT bus sign
I spy a Waterbury train
Another shop
A small shopping plaza
I spy the interstate
At this point, we were in Bridgeport
Ooh, the playground!
More New Haven Line goodness. Man, those catenaries look sorry as hell
Near the Bridgeport layover yard
A small church
Some housing, inching closer to the bus terminal
A grassy field near I-95
Bass Pro Shops
Starbucks behind the trees
A homeless camp
The bus terminal’s building
IN A PINCH? CALL FINCH! (but also OH NO, DOTS!)

Alrighty, so after deviating into the GBT bus terminal, swapping an 85% full bus for a 95% full bus, we turn down John Street and Fairfield Avenue. From here, we still pass a bunch of houses and shops, pass under the New Haven Line again, and pass under I-95 again. And it’s more of the same. Again. But at least we pass a Dunkin’ and a creek! Neat.

Stroad HELL
Yep. Still New England.
Fenced off lot
I don’t even want to know
A Mexican restaurant?
Respect the dead, dammit!
Fancy-ish street sign
Micky D’s!
SIR, THIS IS A WENDY’S!
A side street
A dead end street
A creek

At this point, we were in Fairfield, and we’d reach Route 1. Again. But, the interchange was a bit hacky since the bus stop was positioned in such a way where a sharp turn was necessary. And yes, someone DID get on here. We kept on down Route 1, through Fairfield’s town center and past the town green. I must admit, it seems like a nice area, save for on-street parking on a stroad. We also passed by a side street near Fairfield’s Metro-North station. But, once we left Fairfield for Westport, it was stroad HELL.

Turning!
Grassy!
Citgo and the New Haven Line
A theater!
This feels like 11ft8
DAIRY QUEEN!
sbubby
Fenced-off grassy field
Into Westport!

Of course, once we entered Westport, it was stroad HELL. It legitimately was nothing but shopping centers on either side. No deviations either. But, wait, there’s a proper downtown area in Westport?! Holy CRAP! Sadly, though, it’s nowhere near Westport’s Metro-North station. But then we crossed the Saugatuck River and it was the same crap. Strip malls and needlessly wide roads, all dragging on forever. Until, oh crap, we’re entering downtown Norwalk! Yeah, we took a turn at East Ave., passed the Norwalk Green, crossed the Norwalk River, and a few more turns and FINALLY we made it to the WHEELS Hub!

Oh please, more plazas
Leaves
I think this is an office park, I don’t remember
An apartment and assisted living complex
A smaller shopping plaza
Coming soon!
THE GOLDEN ARCHES RETURN
Oh please, ANOTHER strip mall?!
AND YET ANOTHER ONE! This was why highways were invented!
A real estate office
More shopping
AND MORE CAR DEPENDENCY!
AND THE BILLIONTH STRIP MALL
At least there’s a storage facility!
Look Taser, money laundering!
I don’t remember what this was either
Are we there yet?!
The Norwalk Green!
So close!
This feels like Woonsocket
Trees and the Norwalk River!
A BENDY BUS! (obviously, not Milford Transit, but it’s the end of the line no less)

The good: You can’t say it doesn’t serve a lot! Yeah, it serves quite a bit. Three RTA jurisdictions (5 if you include the Stamford and New Haven divisions of CTtransit!), several towns, all stretched out over 20 someodd miles. Plus, it’s pretty much THE definition of a cross-regional bus route, serving multiple major cities along the way and with the various smaller communities. Also, it’s only $1.75 (which seems to be standard statewide, regardless of authority), vs. $4.50 for an intermediate ticket on Metro-North (from Milford to South Norwalk). And it runs to 10pm?!

The bad: It’s a bit long! I mean, yes, it’s intended to connect multiple places together, but it just drags on. The fact it’s all stroads doesn’t help much here. And, no front-door service to Metro-North? Would it have hurt to deviate into Stratford’s inbound platform at least, along with Fairfield’s?

Nearby points of interest: Norwalk! Bridgeport! Stratford! Milford! Also the Post Mall (which is the largest in the state!)! Also, whatever is in Westport. Yeah, there’s not much around there given the stroady nature. There’s also Fairfield, which seems alright.

Total crossings over the New Haven & Danbury Lines: 7

Total crossings over I-95: 10

Overall, it’s a decent route. A marathon, sure. But, it gets the job done as a link between the communities it serves. Plus, the connection between transit authorities and CTtransit is always nice. But, if you’re looking for speed, just take Metro-North.

Rating 9/10

271 (Kimberly Ave./Savin Rock/Milford Green)

Alrighty, another CTtransit route! Now, this one’s a bit tricky as there’s THREE(!!!) variants of the route. But, looking at the schedule, the 271M to Milford is the full run, with the 271S to Savin Rock and the Sunday-only 271R being short-turns. The full run also runs every 40 minutes, while trips go to Savin Rock every 20. Now, with that out of the way, let’s get into it.

BENDY BOY

So I got on the bus at Union Station instead of the New Haven Green, and from there we were off to the races. A few turns and Route 1 later, we were on Howard Avenue. Was there a prison? Not really. However, I wouldn’t describe this as the best part of New Haven. Dangerous still? Not really, though. But it was a high ridership area, and from here, we turned down Kimberly Avenue. We passed through a bunch of row homes and shops, even a school and a park. Soon enough, we went under the interstate and over the West River, into West Haven.

Not very developed.
The roads are in horrible shape, it looks like
An apartment complex
CTown Supermarket!
More housing
Yep, still in New England.
The West River

So, at this point, the road became Elm Street as we passed more of the same. Yep. More houses, more shops. Same stuff, different town. We made a turn, down Campbell Avenue, which seemed sorta walkable, I guess. It has parking on the sides of the street. Eventually, though, we’d make our way to the ocean and Savin Rock Park. By this point, ridership has fallen significantly, but there were still a few people on the bus.

eef freef
Is this a castle or something?
Brazil!
Kurger Bing!
Town hall!
Even more housing, oh my!
Look Taser, a Dollar Tree AND a Family Dollar!
Scenic!

Alright, from hereon out it was what is probably rich NIMBY hell. Following the ocean, on the side I was sitting on, it was just houses upon houses, sometimes a park, but it all looked like it’d belong to rich people. There was also a beach along the way at one of the turns, and the other side had much more for the eyes to see. Eventually, there were some shops like Sunoco and Dollar General. At one point, we even turned down a side street that probably shouldn’t have buses on it. And yes, it’s part of the route.

This feels like rich NIMBY hell
A fire station and a park
Pond!
Sunoco!
Look Taser, another Dollar Tree!
And some food truck
A side street
Sharp turn!
Another side street
Dollar General!
More rich NIMBY hell
Crossing something
More houses
NIMBYISM AT PLAY, BABYAYYYY
OH NO EVEN THE CUTAWAY VANS HAVE DOTS!!!

Finally, we made it to Milford. From here, we turned down New Haven Avenue, deviated towards Milford’s MNRR station, and went back up the way we came. From there, we went further up Gulf Street, and down Route 1 to the end of the route at the Connecticut Post Mall.

Pond!
Not yet!
I SAID NOT YET!
Milford’s MNRR station
Respect the dead!
The mall!

The good: Well, it serves a lot of mostly high density neighborhoods! It also directly-ish serves Milford’s Metro-North station, along with the Connecticut Post Mall. Short-turns to Savin Rock are also nice, since not everyone needs to go the full hour ride out.

The bad: What’s with Sunday routing being different? It also feels like it drags on forever through rich NIMBY hell, but to be fair not many people there are probably looking to take CTtransit.

Nearby points of interest: Milford’s downtown and the Post Mall. Also, Savin Rock and the West Haven Green.

Overall, it’s a decent enough route. It definitely serves a lot, and, at least on my run, was a few minutes early. Nevertheless, I’d say that this route would be better having the express variant over the 261.

Rating: 7/10

Fairfield Metro (Metro-North)

Nono, this isn’t Fairfield (Metro-North). That’s next time I’m in the area. This is Fairfield Metro (Metro-North). Okay? We good? I know, it’s a little confusing. But, let’s dig into it.

You good?

Okay, so of course, getting off the train, the platform is very much still seemingly immaculate. You’ve got benches, a huge parking lot (this was built to relieve pressure on Fairfield!), and would ya believe it, it’s fully accessible! YAY! That’s by virtue of a bridge over the tracks, which have elevator access! Ticket machines also exist here. Lastly, you have bike racks on the inbound side, along with what looks like a busway. If it is a busway, it’s kinda useless since nothing stops here, well, at the station itself. GBT stops on Kings Highway just outside the station (0.1 mile walk) with one route.

See ya!
Southbound!
The other platform
That’s a lot of parking!
Up the bridge!
There’s a destination board here!
The obligatory from-bridge view. Why is the center-right track the only one with concrete ties?
The busway (I think???)
An Acela!

The good: It’s got ridership, that’s for sure! Given that most of the parking lot was used when I was here, it’s clear that it’s serving its purpose as a relief station for Fairfield. Furthermore, most trains stop here unless it’s an express.

The bad: The platform is kinda long, maybe overly long, but then again some trains CAN be long. Plus, what’s with that thing that looks like a busway?

Nearby points of interest: Not a lot, but there are a few shopping centers nearby.

Transit connections: GBT (5 on Black Rock Tpke., 7 on Kings Hwy.), Metro-North (New Haven)

Overall, it’s a servicable station. It’s not bad, but it just feels like it’s lacking in character. Or, maybe, the character is in how modern it is. And, as a relief station for Fairfield, it gets the job done pretty well.

Rating: 7/10

Bridgeport (Metro-North/GBT/Amtrak)

Oh boy. This one’s a biggie. So, we have an Amtrak station in the largest city in Connecticut, and it’s hardly used on that front. But on the Metro-North front, it’s very heavily used. So, let’s take a look. This one’s gonna be long.

The station sign
Damn, that screen can take quite the beating!

So, let’s start things off with the GBT bus terminal. It’s well-lit, modern, and has a direct (albeit long) on-foot connection to the southbound platform. Furthermore, all the berths are clearly labelled so no guesswork has to be done. Would be nice if they had schedule info here, though.

The entrance to the bus terminal from the train station
The waiting area. Yes, that’s a Dunkin’!
Get Carter!

From here, after burning my eyes out with the dots on the buses, I went back and into the station building. On the inbound side, you have the restrooms, an MTA Police booth, an MTA information booth (unstaffed), a Quik-Trak machine, a cafe, and access to the parking garage and Water Street. The station building itself is actually located directly above Water St., so that’s cool.

Stroad and a reflection
OH NO, DOTS!
Water St., from the station building
The waiting area

Access between the platforms is done via an underpass, which also provides more street access. Elevators are also found here, as well as solicitors.

The underpass
The other side
Woah
The outbound waiting room

On the other side, you have a much smaller waiting room, with another ticket machine and schedule info. Not much to say here aside from the views of the Pequonnock River (try saying that 5 times over quickly!) and the interstate. Now, the platforms. You’ve got a lot of benches here, and it’s all fully sheltered. Yay! Furthermore, it’s pretty good for railfanning as you have the sharp curve coming from Stratford to the north (it’s like that to avoid the hockey arena), and a significant amount of trains. I was here during rush hour and was taken aback at just the sheer amount of trains within a 10 minute span (at least 7-8!) You still have the view of the river, but with how things are you can’t get too many good shots of trains with the river. Street access to Water St. can also be had from here as well, by way of stairs.

See ya? Nah, not today.
High speed my shiny metal ass!
See ya!
Some more river and I-95 goodness
A southbound Regional stopping here
And an M8!
Two of them!
DIESEL IN DA HOUSE!!!
KING TUT, AGAIN?!
A tale of two power sources
This one ain’t stopping
More diesel!
And my ride home……nice.

The good: It’s got plenty of amenities! Restaurant on-site, ticket machines, the Quik-Trak, bathrooms, a fully sheltered platform, even direct sheltered access to the bus terminal! Furthermore, it’s an amazing station to foam at, with shots of the trains coming around the curve. Plus, the fact the inbound waiting area is above Water St. is a cool thing as well, along with the shots of the river and I-95.

The bad: Why isn’t there a layover track for Waterbury trains? That’s probably the worst thing about this station.

Nearby points of interest: Downtown Bridgeport and the hockey arena!

Transit connections: GBT (all), Amtrak (Northeast Regional), Metro-North (New Haven & Waterbury Lines), Coastal Link, intercity buses, Port Jefferson Ferry, prison (via MTA police)

Overall, it’s not a bad station. Probably among the best I’ve checked out so far. It’s like someone took the foamability of Canton Junction and gave it the amenities of Route 128 and the transit accessibility of Forest Hills, and threw it into Connecticut. This is, quite possibly, among my favorite stations.

Rating: 8.5/10

South Norwalk (Metro-North)

So, from the middle of absolutely nowhere, to the heart of a small city (kinda). Let’s look at South Norwalk.

The station sign

So, getting off the WHEELS bus (no entries on that yet!), I made my way up towards the station. Wait, oh crap I got off the wrong spot. Turns out, you don’t enter through the parking garage like at Wickford Junction. So, some more walking later, and finally I found the entrance to the platforms. And there’s a station building here, too! Sweet!

The parking garage. No entry!
The outbound station building

Of course, it’s your standard Metro-North affair, but the platforms are configured in a slightly more unusual way. With it being the terminal for the Danbury Line, the trains need somewhere to lay over. So, that’s where the extra tracks and the partial islands come in. Tracks 1 and 2 are your standard express tracks, mostly for Amtrak and express trains. Tracks 3 and 4 are used for trains to New Haven and Grand Central, while tracks 5 and 6 are used for Danbury trains. Here’s a visual from Wikipedia.

Aside from the Shore Line East (which doesn’t stop here), this is what each track is used for

So, how’s the station itself? Well, the platforms are your standard affair with benches, a Pepsi vending machine, ticket machines, and a parking machine to pay for parking. Inside the station, you have some vending machines, plus bathrooms which are only open during morning and evening rush hour periods. The inside of the station looks nice though, with waiting areas on either side, connected by an underpass.

The tracks towards Westport and Merritt 7
And looking towards Rowayton!
The indoor waiting area
The elevator, hidden away a little
The underpass
Look Taser, brochures!
The inbound station building
A long Danbury train. Long enough to not fit on the siding, I guess.
MMMMM TIER 1 EMISSIONS YEAH BABAAAYYYYY
Oh look, an M8!

The good: It’s pretty much in downtown Norwalk! Furthermore, you also have Norwalk WHEELS deviating in here with every route that serves the station. Parking is (as far as I can tell) aplenty, and you even have two nice indoor waiting areas. Plus, it’s also the terminus for Danbury trains, so one could transfer between lines here.

The bad: That said, sometimes the platform listing is only a suggestion, as the Danbury train above was too long to fit on track 5. It’s also a bit of a ways away from the WHEELS Hub, and the locked bathroom is annoying.

Nearby points of interest: If you’re willing to walk a little, downtown Norwalk is nearby! You also have the Sono Collection shopping center and the aquarium nearby.

Transit connections: Metro-North (Danbury & New Haven Lines), Norwalk WHEELS (9, 10, 11)

Overall, it’s a nice station. In a way, it reminds me of Wickford Junction, but with actual service. And, unlike some other stations, it’s properly set up to handle branch services. It’s also centrally located in Norwalk so one could get here without much hassle.

Rating: 7.5/10

Green’s Farms (Metro-North)

Hey kids! Ever wanted to be in what seemed like the middle of absolutely NOWHERE, but also with the sound of I-95 whirring about in the background?! Well now you can, at GREEN’S FARMS!!!

The sign

Alrighty, so first off, the platform situation is much the same as Stratford. You’ve got a mostly sheltered inbound side, and a bus shelter on the outbound side. Benches are everywhere, though! Plus, there’s what appears to be a cafe in the station building, but as far as I can tell it’s only open on weekday mornings during rush hour. Otherwise, all you get is a Pepsi vending machine. Ticket machines are also on the inbound platform.

See ya!
The station building and bridge plates.

As for parking, it’s obviously a park & ride, so it’s aplenty. Some spaces were left unused, but the vast majority of them were taken up. It’s also an alright spot for rail foaming, if you’re into that. However, I’d instead recommend another place, such as Bridgeport or South Norwalk, if the weather is bad.

Another M8, this one having expressed
That’s a lot of parking!
Yep. That’s I-95 right there.
The bridge plates
Oh neat, a Shoreliner cab!
DIESEL!!!
Another expressing M8
And yet another one!

The good: Well, it’s a decent enough spot for foaming! Plus, there’s plenty of parking and it’s pretty much right off I-95, so there’s that. Unfortunately…

The bad: If you want to get anywhere, you gotta go at least half a mile. By car it isn’t bad, as the interstate is only a mile and a half away. On foot, though, it’s a mile and a half to US-1. Yeah. This station’s pretty much in no man’s land. And, as for accessibility, it’s dubious at best. Yes, there’s level boarding, but good luck changing sides. Service here is also largely neutered vs. the rest of the New Haven Line, being a train an hour, vs. at least 2-3 on the rest of the line

Nearby points of interest: There’s a beach nearby if you’re willing to walk half a mile!

Transit connections: Metro-North (New Haven Line)

Overall, it’s literally just a park & ride. I got nothing much to say about it. It’s also got neutered service, but given the fact ridership as-is is high enough, if service is to increase, there should be a shuttle that runs to here and times with trains. Or, just go to Westport if you need midday service.

Rating: 5.5/10

Stratford (Metro-North)

Oh boy, a Metro-North station! Yeah, the next several entries are going to be Metro-North. Anyways, let’s get into Stratford!

The sign

So, like the rest of Metro-North’s New Haven Line, Stratford is fully high-level. However, the platform’s a little short, as on the train ride here, the conductor came on and announced that doors would NOT open on the last two cars. Yikes.

An M8 train

Of course, what does the station have? It’s just your standard Metro-North affair with ticket machines, a vending machine, trash, and benches. Of course, the southbound platform is fully sheltered while the northbound one only has a small shelter. While annoying, this makes sense since most people here are going towards Grand Central, not New Haven. Fortunately, the station is technically accessible by way of ramps up to the platforms. However, crossing over isn’t really the most accessible, just like Milford. But, since the sidewalk is a little flatter, at least it’s easier.

The inbound side
And the station building, turned into a restaurant
An M8!

The good: It’s quite close to where most of the things in Stratford are. It’s also close to the interstate as well, so one could theoretically use it as a park & ride. Furthermore, it’s your standard Metro-North affair of having garbage bins and benches on the entirety of the platform, along with a ticket machine. It’s also a transfer point with some Waterbury trains.

The bad: The lack of an inbound shelter, and the questionable accessibility. Hell, wouldn’t it be easier to just install an elevator to sidewalk level on both sides?

Nearby points of interest: The national helicopter museum on the outbound side! There’s also a bar on the inbound side, but I’m not sure how good their food is. The Docks is also nearby, along with a Dunkin’ and a Cumberland Farms.

Transit connections: Coastal Link, Metro-North (New Haven & Waterbury Lines)

Overall, it’s an alright station. Worse than Milford? Not really. But, I wouldn’t say it’s much better either. In a sense, I guess it’s just a copy-paste and not much else.

Rating: 6/10

Norwalk WHEELS Hub

The WHEELS on the bus go round n’ rou- oh, not that kind of wheels? Oh, ok. 🙁

This is it.

Whelp, that’s it. That’s literally all of the Wheels Hub. What ya see is what ya get. Now, it isn’t the worst thing in the world, but the biggest gripe is that the berths are haphazardly labelled with seemingly no rhyme or reason. Fortunately, however, you do get some seating and a little bit of shelter. But, as far as I can tell it isn’t heated. Also unfortunate, and I ain’t gonna sugarcoat it, there’s also a number of homeless people sleeping here. Make of that as you wish. Oh, there’s also a dot matrix sign that lists departures! Neat!

The good: It’s got labelled berths and countdown clocks! For a small-ish RTA like Norwalk WHEELS, I honestly would’ve expected less. But, hey, it’s a nice thing to have! Plus, the system operates on a pulse schedule (where all routes, excepting the Coastal Link, leave at the same time, guaranteeing connections with one another)

The bad: I mean, the lack of an information booth can be quite offputting. And, for an RTA’s central hub, I would’ve thought some kind of an indoor waiting area would’ve been halfway decent. Also, be ready to inhale the occasional diesel fume from the Danbury Branch’s diesel locomotives from time to time.

Nearby points of interest: Pretty much all of Norwalk! You also got CTtransit’s 341 to Stamford and the Coastal Link to Bridgeport and Milford. A short ride to South Norwalk’s Metro-North station can also get one to either New Haven, Grand Central, or Danbury.

Transit connections: Norwalk Transit (all routes), Coastal Link, CTtransit (341)

Overall, it’s a serviceable transfer point. It’s not the best, and quite truthfully I’m sure worse exists. It’s a central hub for a small RTA, and it also serves as an inter-system transfer between the Coastal Link, CTtransit, and Norwalk Transit. Just be ready for the occasional Brookville, EMD, or GE diesel locomotive to pass under the nearby overpass.

Rating: 4.5/10

BONUS:

261 (Post Mall/US-1/Yale-New Haven Hospital)

Alrighty, the 261! This one was a bit tricky given the bus was PACKED. But, here we go!

Onwards!

So, once we finally got moving, we moved down Temple St, MLK Jr. Blvd., and then a left onto York Street. Passing by Yale-New Haven Hospital, the bus got even more full, and we pressed on. Of course, we were inching up Howard Ave. towards Sylvian Ave., but eventually we made it. As several stops, there were a trade of people where some got off and others got on, which persisted until we got out of New Haven. Naturally, the area was residential, and we took a few turns to Winthrop Avenue, down a one-way frontage road that’s for a nonexistent freeway, and down Governor Ella Grasso Blvd. This area was largely all park and cemetery, until we got to Route 1. Then we were in stroad hell.

Parking garages
Construction
What an abomination
The hospital!
A corner store
Parking
Mind the dead!
More parking
Housing on the other side of Grasso Blvd.
The same cemetery from earlier, from behind
Stroad HELL
There were DOTS on the other side of this bus. DOTS!

So now that we were on Route 1, it was much of the same to the end, where it’s probably not worth even going into detail about. Businesses on either side generally, oversized road, a devi- wait WHAT?!

the usual stuff
University of New Haven!
There it is!
More of the same

We deviated INTO A RESIDENTIAL NEIGHBORHOOD. But, there’s a good reason. This was to serve what I suspect is probably a section 8 complex. It’s the only conceivable reason for this deviation, and hey it gets a decent amount of ridership so I’ll let it slide.

Residential deviation
An apartment complex!
Back to the usual

So, back to the usual. We go down US-1, stroad, stores on either side, yadda yadda yadda, copy-paste. Eventually, we make it to the Post Mall and it’s the end of the route.

Same old, same old
NIBBLES WOODAWAY?!
a bus shelter
Almost there
FINALLY!

The good: Well, it deviates into an apartment complex! It also links downtown New Haven with a bunch of shopping along a stroad, as well as malls. Oh yeah, there’s also a rush hour express variant which runs 2x daily each direction (weekdays only), which is nice.

The bad: This ain’t the fault of the 261, but it feels LONG, given the fact it’s just overly wide stroads once you get on Route 1. It also is kinda long though, with a prescribed runtime of about 40 minutes, but that’s normal. Point is, it feels longer than it really is. I seriously can’t help but think if New Haven (& surrounding areas) get rapid transit in the form of either light rail or subways, this should be a major stop given the high ridership of the 261.

Nearby points of interest: You got Yale Hospital, along with the University of New Haven, the mall, and a section 8 apartment complex!

Overall, it’s a good route. It tries its best, but it feels longer than it really is, and to be quite real, I feel this would be better paralleling rapid transit given the insanely high ridership. (unless my trip was an exception). It’s also nice there’s an express variant.

Rating: 7/10

201 (Madison/Guilford/Branford)

The first bus I chronologically rode this day, yet one of the later-published entries out of the 7 or so in my backlog. Well, here we have the 201. The best comparison I can draw in RIPTAland would be the 54 to Woonsocket, or the 230 to Montello in MBTAworld. Point is, it’s a bus route that goes miles and miles into the hinterlands of Connecticut. Let’s dig into it.

The Scranton Gazebo. Change here for 9 Town Transit routes 641 and 645
There it is!

So the route begins with us pulling out of Samson Rock Drive, onto Route 1. Then we floor it. Occasionally we’d be picking up a passenger or two, but point is, we largely floored it through no man’s land. Rural? Yup. Small towns? Yup. Cemeteries and cemeteries everywhere too. Of course, we also crossed under the Northeast Corridor. Slowly, though, US-1 kept becoming more and more of a stroad as we pushed on-

Scenic fall leaves!
A bunch of trees.
Dead people everywhere
12ft8?!
The Northeast Corridor!
Water!
Some trace of civilization
No express yet!
Spooky!

Wait, why are we deviating?! Oh for god’s sake, we deviated to serve the Guilford Town Green. Hell, may as well go the full mile and serve Guilford’s Shore Line East station at this point. I’m not even sure if a 40ft bus can fit in there, but whatever. Moving on, after deviating, we came back to US-1, pressing on even further, passing not much other than a small shopping center and a roundabout marking the line between Guilford, Branford, and North Branford. Ridership really started picking up here, as we turned down Main St.

Guilford’s church and town green
They really embrace Halloween around here, huh.
Ooh, an orchard!
Grasslands!
Not the best of photos
Guilford Commons. Sadly, no deviation here
Some stuff
Entering: Branford. No smoking please!
A construction company?
An intersection
No cockroaches, I hope
I SAID NOT YET!!!!!
The forbidden playground!
Onwards to Main St.!

Now, as a fun aside, this stretch of the 201 was actually my first-ever experience with CTtransit, going from Branford’s SLE station to downtown New Haven. From here, it goes down through Branford’s town center, back to US-1. We have another deviation here, this time to Cherry Hill Park & Ride. There’s also a Walmart and a church past here, along with an apartment complex, but instead we just deviated into the park & ride. Moving on!

Branford Center
Man, I like these old New England town centers.
A print shop
A small plaza
The end of Main St.
Cherry Hill Park & Ride lot
Strip mall and catenaries!

From here, it was STROAD CENTRAL. US-1 made itself clear it was a STROAD from here to New Haven. At this point it was Saltonstall Parkway. Wonder if it was named after the Saltonstall family of Massachusetts? Who knows. Moving on, it was, of course, a stroad so naturally there were businesses and strip malls on either side. Wait, what? US-1 is splitting?!

Storage
Micky D’s!
A spa
Wouldn’t want to live here
High St. overpass over the NEC
Catenaries galore
Now that’s the power of the Home Depot.
Gas

From here, the road became a frontage road. What’s a frontage road, you might ask? Well, the intent for them is to provide access to businesses and houses otherwise cut off by the freeway. Some areas will call it a service road or access road, but New England dialect calls it a frontage road. With this in mind, we went express onto I-95 southbound all the way into downtown New Haven, crossing over the Quinnipiac River.

Express!
The Quinnipiac River!
THANKS FOR THE WELCOME.
Not the 201, but a few CTtransit buses no less

LADY: “You from around here? I don’t recognize you.”
ME: “Nah, I’m from Rhode Island.”
LADY: “Which area?”
ME: “Around Providence.”
LADY: “Mmm. I remember always going to Misquamicut and the beaches down there when I was around 16. Now I’m 60, but despite being close, I haven’t been to Rhode Island too much. What’s your favorite local food?”
ME: “Oh boy, that’s a whole can of worms.”

Lady then kept going on about stuff she can/can’t eat, and soon enough we were at the Green.

The good: Well, it serves a lot, to say the least. This route was made with linking the communities along the Shore Line to New Haven in mind, with timed connections to 9 Town’s 641 and 645.

The bad: I will say, it’d be nice if the bus deviated into Madison’s SLE station. Unlike Guilford, there’s plenty of space for a bus to pull in. Plus, it’d be useful for commuters in the area. Plus, the on-time performance can be a little dubious at times, but it wasn’t egregiously late.

Nearby points of interest: You’ve got the towns of Madison with the 9 Town connection, along with Guilford, Branford, East Haven, as well as downtown New Haven!

Overall, I’d definitely compare it to RIPTA’s 54 or the T’s 230, in that it goes deep into no man’s land. And, at that, it’s still pretty good.

Rating: 7/10