Pilot plan for express shuttle bus takes off

Every day hundreds of students make the cold trek up Science Hill. Starting today, the Science Hill Express shuttle may make this journey a little more manageable.

The pilot program of the Science Hill Express will cut down on the commute by having three buses focus on hot spots where students congregate and by timing pickups to the start and end times of the largest classes. The shuttles will run from 8:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, from four stops on campus: Payne Whitney Gym, the Yale Station Post Office, William L. Harkness Hall and the Becton Center. All of the buses will head to Sterling Chemistry Laboratory and Osborn Memorial Laboratories.

The new express shuttles are another step in a series of transit changes designed to address the concerns of students, many of whom said they find the current system inefficient.

“If the shuttle was always there when I was ready to go, then I’d take it,” said Philipp Kiep ’07, who plans to major in the sciences. “It’s colder waiting for the bus than simply walking up the hill.”

The administration is working with the New Haven Bus Company to accommodate the initial pilot program, which will cost approximately $10,000. The pilot will continue throughout the spring semester while the administration assesses student response.

“President [Richard] Levin suggested we run the pilot this semester to see how many students would be helped by it, and to give us time to test new approaches based on student reactions,” Associate Vice President for Administration Janet Lindner said.

If the pilot is successful, Yale Parking and Transit will develop a full proposal and seek funding for the additional resources necessary to launch the shuttle full time.

Since 2003, the Graduate Student Assembly had been discussing ways to integrate Orange Street — where many graduate students live– with central campus and Science Hill. Last Spring, Yale College Council representative Steven Syverud ’06 wrote a proposal for a shuttle system designed to better meet the needs of undergraduates.

“I am pleased at how seriously the administration has listened to the YCC,” Syverud said. “They have done a great job of not doing this from up on high.”

Representatives from the GSA, the Yale Graduate & Professional Student Senate and the YCC then met with Don Relihan, director of support services, to propose changes to the current system. Yale Parking and Transit distributed a survey to Yale students, and the responses and subsequent discussions led to the Central Science Loop and other changes that expanded and streamlined Yale’s shuttle service.

Since its implementation last fall, the Central Science Loop has had thousands of riders per month and helped realize a 30-percent increase in overall Yale Transit ridership from last year, said Jeff McCutcheon GRD ’08, who sits on the Yale Transportation Policy Committee with Syverud.

“We were still getting some complaints,” Syverud said. “People weren’t always sure the Central Science Loop would get them to class on time, or they would be able to get to class but not back.”

The Science Hill Express should relieve these problems for undergraduates, he said.

The creation of the express shuttle is part of a broader discussion on integrating Science Hill with Yale’s main campus. The report of the Committee on Yale College Education in 2003 suggested several steps, including the shuttle expansion, that would help make Science Hill a more attractive destination for undergraduates. Provost Andrew Hamilton, who sat on the CYCE, is presently coordinating the University’s $500-million plan for renovation and expansion of Science Hill facilities.

“The improved shuttle service is part of our continuing efforts to improve the access to Science Hill for students who take classes there,” Hamilton said. “We all recognize how difficult it can be to get from a class on central campus to one in Sterling Chemistry [Laboratory] within the allotted time.”

Hamilton said the architects Laurie Olin and Cesar Pelli, who are currently overseeing landscaping studies, may have suggestions for improving access, pathways and gathering places on Science Hill.

“In the longer term, there is considerable thought being given to how best to integrate Science Hill into the life of the University,” Hamilton said.

A student boards the shuttle for Science Hill at a stop on Prospect Street. The recent addition of the Science Hill Express should better accommodate students by creating greater availability by coordinating with class times.
Jie Zhou
A student boards the shuttle for Science Hill at a stop on Prospect Street. The recent addition of the Science Hill Express should better accommodate students by creating greater availability by coordinating with class times.

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