Yale shuttle expansion considered

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Photo by William Freedberg.

Yale administrators are discussing the possibility of expanding the Yale shuttle system further into New Haven, according to administrators present at last week’s Board of Alders meeting.

Yale President Peter Salovey and Vice President of New Haven and State Affairs Bruce Alexander ’65 discussed the possibility of the shuttle’s expansion with Ward 9 Alder Jessica Holmes. Ward 9, located on the edges of Fairhaven, is home to a burgeoning population of graduate students. Holmes told administrators that her constituents would benefit from a shuttle line expansion, and that such an move would make Yale students feel welcome in more neighborhoods.

“I want Yale students and faculty to feel safer and more connected to other parts of the city,” she said. “There’s a great spirit of volunteerism at the University. But it would be powerful if you were to look at the maps where the Yale shuttle goes.

Salovey agreed, saying it was “tragic” that when he first came to Yale he did not explore parts of New Haven beyond Interstate 91. Alexander said that expanding the bus system would be “expensive as hell,” but agreed that it could be a wise investment in New Haven’s neighborhoods.

Salovey and Alexander did not respond to requests for additional comment. In a Monday night email, Janet Lindner, the associate vice president for administration denied that the University was considering any changes to its shuttle systems.

“Our shuttle service is stretched to the limit … and its mission is to connect the campus, just as many other colleges provide campus shuttles,” she said. “CT Transit, the state agency responsible for providing public transportation, does operate bus service throughout the city.”

The Thursday meeting was a sit-down between the Alders and Yale’s president and vice president of its Office of New Haven and State Affairs.

However, the candid discussion of adding additional routes to the shuttle system deviated significantly from more frequent debates in town-gown relations, including the state’s payment in lieu of taxes system and Yale’s efforts to spur entrepreneurship in the city.

Holmes said that, while she is enthusiastic about the idea of expanding Yale’s shuttle system, she is also concerned that such a move would appear heavy-handed to city residents. Holmes added that she thinks the Yale Shuttle would be better served by a fundamental change — combining Yale’s Shuttle Service with New Haven’s CT Transit system.

“The Yale shuttle is Yale’s way of saying that some areas of [the] city are good to live in and some are not,” she said. “The point I wanted to get across was as much about the collateral impact. Maybe the best idea in terms of transportation is to invest in the public transportation system rather than have a duplicate system.”

Justin Elicker FES ’10 SOM ’10, who championed the idea of combining the two bus systems as a mayoral candidate last fall, said he agrees with Holmes’ proposal from both an environmental and ethical perspective. He disagreed that Yale would potentially have an outsized footprint in the Fair Haven neighborhood, saying that the area where the proposed shuttle would run — on the edges of Fair Haven where it borders East Rock — is not already heavily occupied.

Undergraduates — when they do use the Yale Shuttle — may only be familiar with its Blue Line, which covers Science Hill and the western side of Old Campus, as well as the Yale Medical Center. The shuttle’s other two daytime lines — the Red and the Orange — serve to cover Union Station and East Rock, as well as the Yale Medical Center, respectively.

The significance of a Yale Shuttle expansion was not lost on the occupants of the Hall of Graduate Studies, where promotional leaflets for businesses and apartments in Westville  — a neighborhood not currently serviced by the Yale Shuttle — line the walls of the Center for Student Life. Of the 10 Yale employees and students interviewed, five said they use the shuttle daily for work or study. Some, like Akshay Didix GRD ’14, considered Yale’s shuttle route when determining where to live in New Haven.

“It definitely was a consideration,” he said. “I knew the route of the Blue Line and I knew that those were the places I was going to visit.”

Justin White GRD ’14 said that the cost of living in East Rock is “crazy” compared to other parts of New Haven. White said he and his wife would prefer to look for cheaper housing in other neighborhoods but added that students would not want to pay for unreliable public transportation when they could get a better one for free.

“Given the problems with the public transportation system, grad students will go with the least expensive option,” he said.

The Yale Shuttle provides over one million rides a year.

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