Inside a Commuter Rail Comeback in Hartford

On a recent Thursday morning, Emily Keeney, a 30-year-old digital marketer from Queens, N.Y., was aboard a train rolling through New Haven, riding to her family home in Somers, Connecticut, for her younger sister’s high-school graduation. In the same car, Omar Eton, a 60-year-old Hartford cancer specialist, was returning to his office after appearing on a local TV news show in New Haven. Also a passenger was Nate Evans, a 27-year-old dance teacher, who lives about 40 minutes from his job in Hartford.

Together, they were among the first riders on the Hartford Line, the first commuter rail service to operate trains throughout the day through the cities of central Connecticut since the defunct New Haven Railroad stopped running in 1968. The new service, which launched on June 18, runs from Springfield, Massachusetts, to New Haven, making eight stops along the 62-mile Interstate 91 corridor. The full run takes about an hour and 20 minutes, with the Hartford-to-New-Haven stretch coming in around 40 minutes. During weekday rush hours, trains leave about every 30 minutes.

It’s no high-tech bullet train, but boosters in Connecticut’s struggling capital hope that the Line can be the little engine that transforms the city, spurring transit-oriented development downtown and luring youthful new residents. And it’s only one part of a whole suite of infrastructural efforts aimed at bringing life to a city overdue for renewal.

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