Battle for the bus

For John Ettinger ’12, Saybrook IM Secretary, the competition for the Tyng Cup begins the second the IM Bus shuttle arrives at Payne Whitney gym.

Bus driver Skip Casteel has been driving the route from Payne Whitney Gymnasium
to Smilow Field Center since 1997.
Bus driver Skip Casteel has been driving the route from Payne Whitney Gymnasium to Smilow Field Center since 1997.
Varsity, club, and intramural athletes alike have complained about a lack of buses driving to the Smilow Field Center at peak hours in the afternoon.
Varsity, club, and intramural athletes alike have complained about a lack of buses driving to the Smilow Field Center at peak hours in the afternoon.

“It’s tactical,” Ettinger said. “When the bus pulls up, you want to make sure everyone from your college gets on. If not everyone from your college gets on, your college could lose points.”

Varsity, club, and IM athletes all take the same bus shuttle to the IM fields. And at the peak times of 3:30-4:00 p.m., 5 p.m., and 6:30-7 p.m., bus demand exceeds supply, forcing students to resort to alternative methods.

Some run to the back of the bus and open the emergency exit door in the back and climb through, sitting three people to a seat and packing the aisles of the bus until no more students can physically fit on board. Others avoid the crowds entirely and instead drive, bike or even run to get to a game or practice on time.

“Getting on those buses is like getting on the last helicopter out of ’Nam,” men’s rugby captain Tim Shriver ’11 said.

But for the time being, Yale’s financial constraints may force students to continue battling for open seats during peak times.

Yet Ryan Bamford, senior associate director of varsity sports administration, said the inconsistency of peak times in bus ridership makes adding a bus fiscally irresponsible.

Barbara Chesler, senior associate director of capital projects and facilities, said each bus has a four hour minimum.

“Remember that this is someone’s job.” she said, “You can’t have someone just run over with an extra bus. We have a substantial contract with the bus company.”

She added the 3:15 and 3:45 buses are frequently empty, and even if Yale were to offer another bus, it would not be at 3:30.

Skip Casteel, a bus driver from B & B Transportation, said that by law he cannot drive until everyone is seated, and he enforces this rule everyday. Both Casteel and Steve Sykes, also a bus driver for B & B transportation, said use of the emergency exit for non-emergency purposes is also illegal. Sykes added that both the bus driver and students who use the emergency exit could be fined for such practices.

Casteel said in his 12 years as a bus driver for Yale, he has only heard of one incident in which a driver, who no longer works on this route, was given a verbal warning by a police officer for use of the emergency exit.

“But if [the Department of] Motor Vehicles sees us, then we will be [fined],” Casteel said.

Once on board, Ettinger said sometimes he resorts to standing in the aisle with other students, which is not ideal, but otherwise it would be impossible to fit everyone on the bus. He and McKaye Neumeister ’12, IM Secretary for Silliman, both said they had never been asked by a bus driver not to stand.

Casteel said the overcrowding on buses is a matter of safety.

“Until something happens, they’ll never do anything about it,” Casteel said. “The first couple of years I was here, they did get a third bus when I asked for it. Now they say they don’t have the money. It’s just getting worse.”

Chesler said she has heard of students cutting in line and using the emergency exit. She said the bus drivers have been told that until everyone is seated, by law the bus cannot leave.

“That’s unfortunate, but obviously the safety of all our students is put first and foremost,” she said. “We would never want to put anyone in harm’s way.”

Liya Assefa ’11, captain of the women’s cross-country team, said her coaches are aware of the bus problem, and they find the lack of buses “silly.” Head men’s soccer coach Brian Tompkins said the demands for transportation to and from the Smilow Field Center are high at critical times.

“I think the department is aware of these log jams, and I know it’s something that they have talked about,” Tompkins said. “I presume it’s being addressed … I know the department is looking at several different options.”

Yet Chesler said no coaches have come forward to either her or her assistant, and if they had heard from coaches, they would have done something about it.

Men’s soccer captain Andy Shorten ’11 said he usually avoids the bus and drives to practice, but as a freshman and sophomore he encountered the bus conundrum.

“It’s definitely frustrating for varsity athletes when you need to get out to practice, get the necessary treatment for your injuries, and warm up, but then you’re hardly getting there on time because some IM guy wants to go play Ultimate Frisbee.”

Neumeister, who is a former member of the women’s cross-country and track and field teams, added that now she faces frustration as an IM athlete because her team sometimes has to forfeit a game or dramatically shorten its length because there just isn’t enough room on the bus for all of Silliman’s players. She said the IM secretaries bring up this issue every year at their meetings, but so far no additional bus has ever been added.

Tom Migdalski, director of club sports, outdoor education, and recreational sports, said that beyond one occurrence this fall when the final bus shuttle of the day did not come back to campus at the appropriate time, he has not heard from any of the IM officers regarding issues with the bus. He added that when he asked them about the issue, they replied that “all was fine.”

While IM athletes have to deal with the fear of forfeiting a game, varsity athletes face the harsh consequences that come with being late to a game or a practice.

Neumeister said that when she was still on the cross-country team, not getting a spot on the packed 3:30 p.m. bus meant having to run out to practice.

“Obviously that’s not the safest neighborhood on the way out there,” Neumeister said. “But if we didn’t run, we’d be late, and then [we’d be] in trouble with our coach.”

Softball captain McKynlee Westman ’11 and baseball captain Andy Megee ’11 said that while their teams start practice before the 3:30 p.m. bus rush, the lack of space occurs around five, just as IM games are beginning or ending.

Shriver added one of the reasons he has a car on campus is to avoid the bus headache. Megee said his team avoids the buses by carpooling.

When asked if her team has tried to get its own bus, Westman said that despite its wishes, the team cannot afford to do so. She said members of her team occasionally miss part of their night classes because they could not get a spot on the necessary bus.

Bamford said each bus can hold a maximum of 44 people.

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