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The Norwalk Transit District is the primary provider of public transportation services in Norwalk, Connecticut and surrounding communities. The district's fixed-route bus transit system, known as WHEELS, is the primary service of the system linking Norwalk and its immediate suburbs as well as peak-hour service as far north as Danbury (with HART) and as far east as Bridgeport (with GBTA) as well as shuttles to Metro-North stations. Paratransit services are also available for residents in the service area unable to use regular transit services.
The city of Norwalk founded the Norwalk Transit District in 1978, seven years after The Connecticut Company ceased operations in Norwalk outside of their route linking Norwalk to Stamford (which continues as Connecticut Transit-Stamford Route 41). Though an entity of its city, the district does also receive funding from the Connecticut Department of Transportation and has both its funds and transfers synched to those of the DOT-aligned CT Transit though it has not piggybacked onto that agency's bus orders.
WHEELS operates fixed routes throughout its service area. A "pulse-point" system is used with all routes meeting at the "WHEELS Hub" in downtown Norwalk to facilitate instant transfers between routes plus CT Transit Route 41 (though passengers on WHEELS routes 11 and 13 can transfer earlier/later during their shared area on U.S. Route 1). Fares as of 2006 are $1.25 (US) with a free transfer which can be used on WHEELS, CT Transit, HART, GBTA, or Milford Transit.
- 13 fixed route services, all in the city limits of Norwalk, which run as bidirectional loops from approximately 5:30 am-7:00 pm weekdays and (most routes) 7:00 am-7:00 pm weekends.
- 2 "Evening Shuttle" routes which provide extra service alongside Main Street and Connecticut Avenue. These buses also meet arriving and departing trains at Metro-North Railroad's South Norwalk station.
- 2 "Sunday Shuttle" routes which run alongside Main Street and Connecticut Avenue which are similar to the Evening Shuttles.
- The Coastal Link, a weekday shuttle running to Bridgeport and Milford operated with the GBTA and Milford Transit District and funded by CDOT.
- The Route 7 Link, a weekday route running between Norwalk and Danbury operated with HART and funded by CDOT.
- Commuter shuttle service from the WHEELS hub to the Merritt 7 business park, Norwalk Hospital, the U.S. headquarters of Virgin Atlantic Airways, and 10/20 Westport Road in Wilton.
Outside Norwalk, WHEELS offers several variable services including:
- 2 bus routes serving the town of Westport
- ADA and Paratrasit service for much of Fairfield County
- A commuter shuttle route serving Greenwich
At its inception, the city of Norwalk purchased a fleet of Mercedes-Benz minibuses as a starter fleet; these buses were soon replaced by Scania buses which were built in nearby Orange when it became evident that the minibuses outgrew growing ridership. By the mid-1980s, a fleet of GMC RTS buses was purchased by the NTD in a joint order with GBTA (from whom secondhand RTS's were later acquired). In 1992, most of the earlier buses were replaced with an order from Flxible for their METRO model.
In 2004, the aging WHEELS fleet led NTD to undergo a fleet replacement with an order for Orion Bus Industries's Orion VII being placed to replace all RTS buses and most Flxibles; these buses are the first low-floor buses in the WHEELS fleet. Orion sister Thomas Built Buses also won a contract for their SLF low-floor model which is used sparingly on commuter shuttles. Also used on the CDOT-funded Coastal Link and Route 7 Link services are several New Flyer D40LF buses which came from a statewide order.
Currently, most service in the fleet including most midday and all Saturday service is provided by the Orion VII buses. The remaining Flxible buses as well as the Thomas and New Flyer buses see service only during weekdays and then mostly during rush hours.