Huge Game crowds led to familiar transit woes

This year’s Harvard-Yale experience was full of hopeful waiting — fans waiting for a touchdown, alumni waiting to enter the parking lot and students waiting for buses to get to and from The Game.

While most students interviewed thought the busing system was adequate, many also said they were at least a little frustrated with slow-moving lines and inefficiently organized waiting areas. Administrators and those involved in planning said they considered the day’s transportation a success.

Thousands of students wait in line to board buses to the Yale Bowl the morning of this year's Game.  Despite the use of 30 buses, several students from both Harvard and Yale complained that the waits were too long.
Andrew Bartholomew
Thousands of students wait in line to board buses to the Yale Bowl the morning of this year's Game. Despite the use of 30 buses, several students from both Harvard and Yale complained that the waits were too long.

Athletics facility operations intern Matt Fealy ’06, who was in charge of coordinating the University’s transportation efforts and ordering shuttles between Payne Whitney Gymnasium and the Yale Bowl, said Payne Whitney administrators and police forces from New Haven and West Haven coordinated with event staff from Contemporary Services Corporation (CSC) to develop a plan for crowd control.

Fealy said planners took into account the larger scale of this year’s Game and hired more buses and event staff to handle crowds. Brad Cohen, owner of B and B Transportation, said his company provided 30 buses to shuttle roughly 10,000 people throughout the day — an increase from the 23 buses hired for the 2005 Harvard-Yale game and the 17 for the 2003 Game.

Both Fealy and Cohen said they hoped to avoid the rowdiness and overstuffed buses of previous years by having more buses and crowd-control staff.

“Since both teams were undefeated this year, we wanted to ensure that we would have enough buses for a continuous flow of buses, which was our goal,” Fealy said. “Also for safety reasons, we wanted to maintain structure and keep the lines flowing.”

Still, many students said the day’s transportation could have been organized more efficiently. Although most students interviewed said transportation was not a major concern, they also complained about unnecessarily long waits in crowded lines.

“It was frustrating because we could have walked back in the time it took to wait for the buses,” Justine Leichtling ’10 said.

Sarah Greene ’10 recalled being tightly packed in the wide waiting area, which made it seem as if lines were hardly moving. Despite repeated screaming from event staff, students said shoving was inevitable because of the way the area was set up.

This year’s transportation problems were not entirely new.

“I remembered the hassle of waiting for buses during my freshman year, so I just decided to walk there and back with my friends,” Audrey Tan ’09 said. “It took us less time to walk than it would have to wait in the crazy lines.”

Students also said the event staff’s expectation that single-file lines would form out the large mob was particularly unreasonable. Leichtling said the scrum-like feel could have been mitigated had there been two waiting areas instead of just one.

For Harvard students, the general sentiment was much the same. Many Cantabs did not know they would need to take buses to get to the Yale Bowl, which made the long waits even more frustrating, students said.

“I thought it was kind of a hassle — it was really hectic and crowded,” Harvard sophomore Prajakta Jaju said. “It was especially inconvenient coming back, and everyone thought it was a hellish experience because of the huge mobs.”

But Fealy said administrators and staff considered the day’s crowd control and busing system a success. He said the Game’s transportation will never be perfect, but administrators hope to have better crowd control next time.

Cohen said adding more buses would not have helped the situation because there was always at least one bus at the loading areas at all times.

“We considered loading three buses at a time to increase efficiency, but we thought we would lose control,” he said.

Fealy said planners’ biggest concern was getting people back after The Game ended because of the huge wave of people exiting at the end that they anticipated. Although losing The Game was disappointing, he said it came as a bit of a relief for crowd management.

“We unfortunately lost The Game, but the way it went kind of helped us,” he said. “Because a lot of people left earlier, we were able to deal with fewer people when The Game ended.”

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