New bus hub expected at mall by holidays

About 800 people take the bus to the Westfield mall each day. To make the trip a little easier, city and mall officials plan to build a bus stop hub that will be heated and covered.

The existing bus stop area in the back of the mall is “ill suited” for the level of demand it gets, mall officials told Planning and Zoning members when they asked for permission to build a new bus hub. There is no shelter, so people have to wait inside the mall during bad weather, they said.

With so many people getting to the mall by bus, property representatives and the Milford Transit District decided they needed to cater to them a bit more. Of the mall employees, 41% get to work each day aboard the bus — whether it is a Milford Transit, Greater Bridgeport, Norwalk Transit or Connecticut Transit bus. About 20% of the mall foot traffic is bus riders. Buses run from 5 or 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.

“That type of usage takes a lot of cars off the road and takes cars out of the parking lot,” mall representatives said.

People also use the mall to connect to other buses, such as those going to Norwalk and New Haven.

The proposed bus hub would be located in the rear parking lot, behind the new parking garage, and would take out 21 parking spaces.

“It is more than a bus stop, but it is not a bus depot,” according to Planning and Zoning Board minutes. “It consists of three individual bus shelters. They are all transparent [and] for safety purposes they are well lit and protected by bollards.”

Each shelter would be eight feet by 30 feet. Each will have a roof and four walls. Each transit operation would be assigned its own shelter, and signs will identify the shelters.

There will be a vending machine inside, as well as a panic button and a communication device that connects to mall security.

A sidewalk and crosswalk system will run from mall exits to the bus hub, which will be landscaped, meeting minutes state.

Mall officials said the bus hub will not increase bus traffic.

The project is estimated to cost $500,000. Henry Jadach, Milford Transit District director, said 80% of that will come from the Federal Transit Administration and 20% from the state. The project is being sent out to bid now, and the plan is to have the project complete by the holiday shopping season.

Milford Planning and Zoning Board member Joseph DellaMonica Jr. (R-5) said he is very much in favor of the bus hub and said it is long overdue. He did wonder, however, if a heated shelter may become a destination for homeless people and asked how the mall might handle that.

Attorney John Knuff, representing the mall and the Milford Transit District, said mall security will be aware of who is in the hub.

The board voted unanimously in favor of the project.

Dan Kiley, general manager of the mall, said the mall will do a marketing campaign to let people know about the new bus hub.

Officials said Milford Transit will own the hub, and the mall will maintain it.