Southeast Area Transit District was formed in December 1975 when East Lyme, Groton, Montville, New London and Norwich voted to form a District under the Code of CT. Ledyard and Waterford joined shortly thereafter. The vision for the District was to create unified transit system to replace the hodge-podge of local and regional bus services previously operated by independent entities. Due to various delays with Federal and State capital grants and delivery of rolling stock, the District begin operations in April 1980, when it took over service in New London and Norwich which had been provided by respective local operators. SEAT also started commuter service between Groton and Norwich. Griswold and Stonington later joined the District. For the first two years of service, SEAT leased a facility in Norwich while its new State-funded facility was being built in Preston. SEAT moved into this facility in 1982, and it continues to serve as SEAT’s Administrative and Maintenance facility.
During its early years of operation, SEAT provided dedicated shuttles from member towns to Electric Boat to support the navy’s build-up in the Reagan years. These shuttles were tied to morning and afternoon shifts at Electric Boat, and in between the shifts, continued operations as local or “corridor” (regional) service.
The commuter routes ceased operations in the mid-80s, as State funds continued to be insufficient to meet the region’s needs, while SEAT endeavored to provide public transit services to the region.
SEAT’s current service has changed in response to the region’s needs, but also in response to financial constraints. In 2012, SEAT reduced service in response to reductions in State operating assistance. It should be noted that SEAT, like all Transit Districts in CT, receives about 70% of its operating revenue from the State, and as such, must adjust service in response to the State’s budget changes.
The City of Norwich secured special Federal funding to build an Intermodal Transportation Center at 10 Falls Avenue, which serves as SEAT’s hub for its Norwich service. For several years, SEAT provided limited staffing at the facility’s customer service center, but due to reductions in State aid, was forced to close this office; but the facility continued to serve as the hub for SEAT’s Norwich service. The City of Norwich has relocated its Parking Authority to this location and agreed to sell SEAT tickets and passes at its office.
In 2015, working with the Southeastern CT Council of Governments (SCCOG), SEAT initiated a major service study (Comprehensive Operational Analysis or COA), which recommended numerous route changes, which, due to funding constraints have not been widely implemented. In response to the planned expansion at Electric Boat and the Navy’s sub base in Groton, SEAT is working with the SCCOG to update the COA, and hopes to secure funding for implementation in 2019/2020.