BRULEY: Solving Yale Station

What has many legs but cannot move? The line at the post office.

On my first trip to Yale Station, I was unaware that you need to block out at least an hour from your schedule just to receive your package. After taking my yellow slip from my postbox, I, a naive freshman, merrily skipped my way to the parcel window. I stopped dead in my tracks upon seeing a line that extended past the doors and out onto the paved steps.

Figuring that it was temporarily backed up and that I would have enough time to grab lunch afterwards, I decided to queue up. After 30 minutes elapsed, I had only just made it inside the building. But I had invested so much time in that line that I decided to wait it out. About an hour later, I remained package-less. My stomach started growling, my feet hurt and I couldn’t leave the line to use the bathroom. On top of that, the dining hall had closed, and it was chicken tenders day.

I’m not the only one with a horror story. When my suitemate finally reached the front of the line, the fire alarm went off. Even though the alarm was wailing, no one dared to leave the post office and sacrifice a place in line.

It’s not just the line that’s delayed. I’ve had to wait almost a week for the slip for a package that, according to the online tracking, had already arrived at Yale Station. Others have waited for up to two weeks for their late packages and letters.

Despite efforts to speed up the line, such as increasing the number of staff, extending the opening hours and adding an operational window, my friends and I still find ourselves stuck in the same mind-numbing line. So I thought of a couple alternative solutions.

First of all, deciding when to go to Yale Station is a huge guessing game. The wait times are unpredictable, and the length of the line fluctuates throughout the day. If there were a smartphone application that indicated how long the lines were and gave an estimated wait time, students could better plan when to pick up their packages.

Or perhaps Yale Station can take inspiration from the line management in theme parks. Many parks have two lines for an attraction — one long line and one shorter, faster line. To join the short line, tourists agree to come back to the ride within a specified time frame. The system works because the number of riders allowed to sign up for the faster line any given time is limited.

If this system were implemented in Yale Station, two parcel windows would be open, and a certain number of students could take a ticket to show up for the shorter line at an assigned time. After all the tickets for the first time frame are gone, tickets can become available for the next time frame. To ensure that people don’t arbitrarily join the shorter line, both the ticket and the package slip would need to be turned in before receiving the parcel. The system would work on a first-come, first-served basis and, unlike at the theme parks, it would run free of charge.

Unfortunately, I don’t think any proposal will work until we learn why Yale Station continues to move so slowly. But if a line is so long that students would rather throw their self-preservation to the wind and stay in the building when a fire alarm sounds than risk losing their hard-earned places in line, then Yale Station needs to come up with a solution quickly.

Sarah Bruley is a freshman in Morse College. Contact her at sarah.bruley@yale.edu.

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