Students call shuttle service insufficient

Despite changes to Yale’s daytime shuttle bus service that have made graduate students’ daytime commutes easier, some grad students said they remain concerned about the effect long wait times for nighttime shuttles have had on their safety.

Since the beginning of summer, the East Rock community has seen a spike in its number of armed robberies. In a meeting with community members last Friday, officials from the New Haven Police Department said there have been at least nine armed robberies in the neighborhood since July. Though not heavily populated by Yale undergraduates, the Yale graduate community has a significant presence in the neighborhood — home of the so-called “grad ghetto.”

In order to reduce wait times for shuttles, the University added several new buses to the transit services and revamped the shuttle system over the past two years to include a route that serves the East Rock neighborhood. Deputy Secretary Martha Highsmith said the recent expansion of shuttle services was intended to increase student safety on campus and adjacent areas.

“The service is one of convenience, but its primary purpose is security, so that students don’t need to walk to various destinations on and around campus,” she said.

But while graduate students said they appreciated the additional daytime services, they said they still encountered problems using the shuttles at night.

Julia Delich SOM ’07, chair of public relations in the Graduate and Professional Student Senate, said she recognized that the University was working to address students’ concerns, but she saw the unresponsiveness of the nighttime shuttles as an important safety issue affecting the graduate student community.

“I know that they’re trying really hard to do something about it,” she said. “But a lot of people have stories about times when the shuttle services have hung up on them three times by accident and then take 45 minutes to come.”

Like Delich, Andy Bellemer GRD ’10 said that he has heard horror stories from students who found the transit system to be unresponsive at inconvenient times.

But Bellemer, who served as co-chair of the Graduate Student Assembly’s transit committee last year, said while improving the transit system would help in the short term, he questioned whether or not it could address the underlying safety issues.

“The night shuttle and door-to-door service are a band-aid to a larger, more systemic problem with the relationship between Yale and New Haven,” he said. “The remedy isn’t clear, but having Yale in a position to protect its grad students from scary New Haven isn’t a viable solution in the long term.”

The University runs four daytime campus shuttle routes from 7:20 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. From 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. seven days a week, the shuttle service is a combination of four shuttle routes — slightly different from the daytime routes — and a door-to-door service. At 1 a.m., with the exception of one line that runs until 3 a.m., the shuttle becomes solely a door-to-door service.

Another problem in addition to the occasionally long wait times is that many graduate students do not understand the differences between the various shuttle services offered, Bellemer’s co-chair Elizabeth Kim GRD ’10 said.

“People are struggling to figure out what’s available and to figure out what bus they’re getting on,” Kim said. “The signs aren’t always clear.”

But those graduate students who take advantage of the transit services praised the changes to the daytime shuttle, particularly the March addition of an “Orange Line,” which runs from the Yale School of Medicine through the East Rock neighborhood.

Before the route was added, graduate students living in East Rock often walked several blocks to catch a less convenient bus in the morning and used the nighttime shuttle in the evening, Director of Support Services Don Relihan said.

“We wanted to run the route right through their neighborhood so [students’] wait time and travel time is reduced, which makes them more likely to ride the shuttle and gives them a greater feeling of security,” Relihan said.

The Graduate Student Assembly’s transit committee worked with the University transit department to adapt the Orange Line’s hours of operation to the typical graduate student’s work schedule, Bellemer said. The shuttle now runs from 7:30 to 11 a.m. and 4 to 8 p.m., which Kim said facilitates students’ commutes to and from the School of Medicine.

“The Orange Line has been a huge success,” Kim said. “People were really struggling last year to get from the [grad] ghetto to the medical school, and [the changes to the route] seem to have addressed those issues.”

Ed Bebyn, manager of parking and transit for Yale, said in addition to positive student comments, he has seen encouraging feedback in the steadily increasing number of riders on the Orange Line.

Kim and Bellemer both praised the Transit Department’s efforts to solicit student opinions on possible improvements to the shuttle service.

“Ed Bebyn has been extremely responsive to the feedback students have given him,” Kim said. “He listens to every call, he responds to every e-mail and he usually comes up with a reasonable response.”

Other recent additions to the shuttle service have been targeted at undergraduates. Last spring, after consultations with the Yale College Council, a “Red Line” was added to the set of nighttime shuttle routes to connect the 12 residential colleges with off-campus neighborhoods such as Edgewood, Park, Howe and Dwight streets.

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