Staff find public transport lacking

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Photo by Alana Thyng.

Most Yale employees come in cars, some walk, but those who ride the public bus system are severely inconvenienced.

The incessant snow blanketing Yale’s campus this spring semester has only made the trip from home to work for employees that ride the CT Transit public bus system more complicated.

Of the 10 Yale Dining employees interviewed, only two use the public transit system. All said walking or owning a car was a far more reliable option than the transportation that the city provides. A Durfee’s employee who asked to remain anonymous said the CT Transit bus system does not fill her needs because there are not many options when her shift ends late at night. She added that the Yale Shuttle does not serve her neighborhood.

“So how am I supposed to get home after that? I don’t even know if I’m going to have money for a cab.”

Any deficiency of public transit is a tremendous hazard for New Haven residents, according to the 2012 Data Haven WellBeing Survey administered by the New Haven public information nonprofit DataHaven. The survey said that 27 percent of Greater New Haven households are “zero car” households with “no reliable vehicle” and that, because of this, they are denied access to approximately half the jobs in the Greater New Haven area.

Former mayoral candidate Justin Elicker FES ’10 SOM ’10, advocated fusing Yale and New Haven’s public bus systems as part of his campaign.

“Splitting the populations into two groups—one that has transportation and one that doesn’t — I don’t think that it’s the right way to provide services to people in the city,” he said.

However, some dining hall employees do manage to take advantage of the transportation services the City of New Haven offers. Debby Hill, who works as a cook in the Calhoun College dining hall, takes the bus daily. She said she needs to rise at around 5 a.m. in order to arrive for work on time: 6:30 a.m. Hill, a Westville resident, said that she takes greater issue with the fact that the buses do not drop people off in a safe spot than reliability.

“I think they don’t let you off in a place where you can get of and go right onto a sidewalk,” she said. “Some people have got to walk around, and that’s dangerous.”

However, Phillip Allen, who works in the Silliman dining hall Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays, said that the buses’ reliability is generally an issue and that he found it “kind of difficult” to get to work on time unless he plans to arrive at work 45 minutes before he is required to be there.

New Haven transportation officials had varying opinions on why Yale Dining employees did not use the city’s public transit system. Carol Nardini, a retired New Haven resident who has lived in the city for years and serves on Mayor Toni Harp’s Transit Commission, agreed that there are few public transit options late at night and on the weekends. She added that one of the other obstacles public transit system’s face is an undeniable bias in American culture towards car ownership.

“All of us Americans have such a real big love affair with our cars,” she said. “There’s a prejudice against public transportation.”

Nardini said she thinks the greatest problem CT Transit faces is a lack of publicity. She said the Transit Commission is trying to make the bus more “user-friendly” by distributing Bus Passes that can be used anywhere in the city, and that New Haven should view its bus system as an asset.

“As a New Haven resident, I really like having a bus system,” she said.

Regardless, all dining hall employees interviewed said Yale College dining hall Managers, Deans and Masters — who will even house dining hall workers in Masters’ Apartments in order to ensure their safety — have made every effort to be accommodating.

Tychelle Gibson, who works in the Timothy Dwight dining hall, said that although she lives in Bethany, Yale dining hall managers would arrange to have her shuttled to work if need be. Gibson said Yale provides shuttle service for people who have trouble getting to work during inclement weather, but that they do not provide transportation home.

Teresa Morrison said that, while the Morse dining hall was short two or three people on the day Winter Storm Pax struck, the students were “understanding.” Shamonte Payne, who also works in Morse, said that during storms, students regularly inquired about the safety of dining hall employees.

“It feels good to be appreciated,” he said. “It goes both ways. We think of them, they think of us.”

According to the 2010 American Community Survey, a subsidiary of the U.S. Census, New Haven’s public transit ranks 24th nationally in terms of ridership, with 13.03 percent of residents using its buses.

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