Yale employees struggle with parking

Yale employees regularly find parking in downtown New Haven difficult, and there does not seem to be an end in sight.

While Yale’s professors enjoy easily accessible lots on some parts of campus for a fee, other Yale staff members and business owners in downtown New Haven endure an untenable parking situation — not enough spots, high cost and a public transit system that does not effectively serve the city’s populace. Those interviewed acknowledged that the city and University have a difficult situation on their hands — while they said their current parking options are unacceptable, they remain doubtful that downtown New Haven has the requisite space for building new parking lots.

New Haven and Yale officials in turn indicated that the current parking fares barely fund the cost of maintaining those lots.

Chief Deputy Communications Officer Michael Morand ’87 DIV ’93 said in an email that Yale “is able to provide parking to all staff who seek it” and that its needs are different, given where its employees live and the steps they take to commute sustainably.

“It’s notable that many staff live in New Haven, often nearby, and a good number choose to walk, bike, or ride the shuttle to work,” he said. “New Haven and Yale have shorter commute times to work than most peers, and a higher number of people who get to work sustainably compared to so much of the rest of the country.”

But five of the seven Yale employees interviewed said Yale could do more to step in and accommodate its employees’ transportation needs.

Yale provides lots for its downtown employees, mainly behind the Payne Whitney Gymnasium. However, parking in these lots require purchased permits and they are not available for anyone without a permit from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. LaTanya Stanley, who works in the Calhoun College dining hall, said there are more dining hall employees who are interested in these permits than there are permits available. Since Stanley has heard that the parking permits are not an option, she has turned to costlier options.

“I get a ride or I take the cab home most days,” she said. “It costs me $10 — I take the cab at least four times a week.”

New Haven’s public bus system is so ineffectual that most Yale employees working downtown choose to forgo that option. Stanley said that, of the 28 employees in the Calhoun dining hall, 10 of them use the public bus system. According to Diane Seller, who works in the Ezra Stiles dining hall, about five of 28 do.

Those who work outside of the downtown have no easier a time. The Divinity School parking lot, which is relatively close to campus compared to other Yale professional schools, charges $120 a month for parking, according to Denys Turner, the Horace Tracy Pitkin professor of historical theology.

Miroslav Volf, Henry B. Wright professor of theology at Yale Divinity School and director of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture, said in an email that he finds the parking system available to him every bit as inconvenient as the one downtown.

“Those who park on the lot, pay for it, and pay what I think is a handsome sum,” he said. “Unless I can find a free parking somewhere on the street, I have to refill the meter myself.”

Turner said that, in contrast to where Yale staff typically lives, the Westville neighborhood where he used to live received excellent service from New Haven’s public transit system, making either owning a car or worrying about parking unnecessary. Turner said that, although the parking situation in New Haven is difficult, he could not think of a solution.

“There does seem to be an imbalance there, but that seems to be pure luck doesn’t it? If you’re downtown it’s much more crowded — where is there space where you could have much more parking?”

Some Yale employees did have solutions to offer. Chyquaan Adams, who works in the Davenport College dining hall, suggested that, if Yale cannot provide lots for its employees, they could at least mitigate the cost of parking in New Haven.

“I feel Yale employees should have a parking pass, a discount,” he said.

Regardless, according to Yale Parking and Transit Services Department, the parking fees are already the lowest they can go. Given that current parking fees cover only 65 percent of the cost of maintaining lots, in the organization’s view, the debate should be about raising parking fees, not lowering them. According to a presentation on the Yale Parking and Transit Services Department website, the federal government spends nearly as much on subsidizing parking as it does on Medicare and national defense.

Transit Chief Doug Hausladen ’04 said that he agreed that parking in New Haven was difficult, but ascribed that to the fact that “some folks don’t know all the options.” Hausladen cited a Stanford study showing that the university had saved substantial long-term funds by choosing additional transit options over additional parking garages, and said that both New Haven and Yale would be wise to do the same.

Hausladen remained adamant that subsidizing short-term transportation solutions, like parking garages, is not a sustainable solution.

“You only have so much land,” he said. “You can’t build your way out of this problem, as far as parking garages are concerned.”

There are 39 Yale owned parking lots scattered throughout Yale’ central campus.

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