Commuters who rely on a bus service to and from Hartford won't have a ride beginning Monday.
The commuter bus service runs from Waterbury, Cheshire, Southington, and Bristol to Hartford and the Old Saybrook/Route 9 corridor service to Hartford too.
New Britain-based bus company DATTCO plans to end service Friday, after keeping it going on their own when contract negotiations with the state fizzled in September.
“We had been negotiating for some time and obviously a lot has changed in the world in the last two years. Our fuel costs are up, our costs for parts are up. Our drivers have been heroes,” said DATTCO assistant vice president of sales Kyle DeVivo.
“We want to make sure [drivers] can make a living wage and this is treated like the good job that it is. It’s hard to get a CDL. It’s hard to drive a bus full of people, and we want to stand up for that,” he said.
In a statement, the Department of Transportation says in part:
“We are hopeful the service provider will renew the contract so these services can be renewed.”
For decades, DATTCO has been hired to drive these commuter routes for DOT. DATTCO drivers used to drive state buses, but they’ve been in their own buses since the company decided to keep the service running on a limited basis after it could not reach an agreement with the state.
But after five months, the company says it is taking a toll. It can’t afford to keep doing so without an agreement with the state.
“They’re still powered by diesel fuel, costs for that is way up. It’s hard to find drivers. There’s a massive driver shortage, so wages need to go up and that’s all reliant on our ability to negotiate the contract,” said DeVivo.
DOT says providing accessible transportation is a priority, but it says until DATTCO renews its contract, commuters will have to find alternatives.
“We encourage commuters to contact CTrides customer service for advice on alternate transportation options or take advantage of specific routes that have been helpful in meeting the needs of commuters, such as the 906, 919, and 940. CTrides can be reached by calling 1-877-CTRIDES or visiting ctrides.com.”
“We don’t know what to do. We feel abandoned,” said Theresa Kruczek, of Deep River
She and Holly Scalzo of Old Saybrook met taking the commuter bus from Hartford towards Old Saybrook.
They tell NBC Connecticut they could take other bus routes to work, but it’ll tack on more than an hour to their commute.
“We need you to keep it for us if you want us to get to work,” said Kruczek.
Scalzo has been taking this bus for more than 15 years to work in Hartford, but Monday she’ll have to find another way to work.
“We hope it’ll continue, even if it’s just one bus run like we’re doing now at least it helps a few of us out.”
At its peak, hundreds of people were riding this commuter bus service and while those numbers are down to the dozens, DATTCO says this is a public service that the state shouldn’t just stop, so it's hopeful they’ll come to an agreement.
“I think we all hope that things get back to normal. We can all go back to the office and things start to get back on track, but in the meantime, we can’t just interrupt these because there are real people who ride it and they're going to have to find another option, unfortunately,” said DeVivo.