Carolyn Brown ’13 called the minibus after squash practice this October, thinking that it would be the fastest way to meet her suitemates for a birthday dinner. But when she called, she discovered it might be a belated birthday.
“Even though the restaurant was really far away, I had to run,” Brown said. “It was going to take the minibus half an hour, and it was actually going to save me time to just run there.”
In general, students can expect a longer wait for the minibus, a service that provides on-call transportation to any destination on or near campus, during the month of February because, with all the snow and cold weather, demand usually peaks around Valentine’s Day, according to Ed Bebyn, Yale’s manager of parking and transit. Beyond keeping students warm, administrators also hope the service will keep them safe: In response to the increased concern for campus security after the murder of Annie Le GRD ’13 this fall, Yale College Dean Mary Miller recommended students take advantage the service. While students interviewed said the minibus makes them feel safer, many expressed frustration with the inconsistent response time. Two administrators said many factors contribute to this problem, such as pockets of high demand and bad weather.
“We are always looking at ways to improve the system,” said Don Relihan, the director of support services, who oversees transit. “That is why we communicate regularly with the [Yale College Council], [Graduate Students Assembly] and [Graduate and Professional Student Senate] to make sure we are doing our best to meet all of their needs.”
There are many factors that contribute to delays in response time, Bebyn said. Demand for the minibus usually spikes Thursdays through Saturdays and during bad weather, he said. During last week’s snow storm, over 1,500 calls were made in one night, he added.
This imbalance of supply and demand causes the most delays, but other factors include bad road conditions and major social events such as Safety Dance.
And as all University departments are forced to trim their budgets, Bebyn said there are no plans to increase the number of cars or drivers operating at any one time to address this complaint.
But beyond sometimes slow response times, students also complained about the shuttle’s occasionally illogical routes.
The majority of the people who use the service are graduate students, Bebyn said, who tend to live away from the centers of undergraduate campus life. As a result, the buses frequent the graduate student-heavy neighborhoods such as East Rock and Wooster Square more often, lengthening the wait time for undergraduates.
Hope Weissler ’12 said the minibus often takes indirect routes to her destination.
“We end up getting on the bus and being shuttled up to graduate student housing by Hamden before we get dropped off somewhere five blocks from where we started,” she said.
Elena Poiata GRD ’12, a Molecular, Cellular, & Developmental Biology graduate student who lives by the Medical School campus, also complained that the bus took roundabout paths to her destination, adding travel time and discomfort.
Despite expressing impatience with the Minibus system, all 12 students interviewed agreed on its effectiveness as a safety measure.
Connie Cho ’13, for instance, said she liked the sense of security that the minibus provides her, especially as a freshman not entirely familiar with the campus.
Jim Rutushni, a Yale security employee who does door-to-door service, said he takes pride in this role.
“I kind of treat everyone like they’re either my daughter or my wife to make sure they get from point A to point B comfortably,” he said. “It’s a good job; it’s a good bunch of people. And everybody cares about the students and making sure they’re safe.”
Officially, the University no longer uses the term “Minibus” to refer to its door-to-door transportation services, but rather refers to all its services, which includes fixed daytime routes, under the umbrella “Yale University Shuttle System.”