After the sun sets, visibility decreases and dangers to students increase. It is imperative that students have safe transportation options available to them during the hours when they need such options the most.
Looking at the issues of transportation and safety simultaneously, it is painfully apparently that the University’s resources could be more efficiently allocated. While the escort system works well, escorting students who would just as soon ride the Minibus taxes security officers unnecessarily. Furthermore, riding the Minibus home instead of calling for an escort would actually be advantageous in many cases. When faced with heavy rain or snow, for example, security officers must walk to their pick-up destinations, significantly slowing response time. According to some Yale Security officers, students would also be physically safer riding the Minibus, since security officers are unarmed.
The newly revised Web site for the Nighttime Minibus, http://www.yale.edu/minibus, is a vast improvement over its predecessor. The site provides an interactive view of the route that the Minibus takes at night along with specific information for prospective riders to keep in mind. The Web site should be publicized widely so that students become aware of the system and how to use it. Publicizing the Minibus map and schedule would greatly increase the number of students served by the Minibus.
Revising the Web site, however, is only one step toward improving the nighttime Minibus system. The key step needed to improve nighttime transportation at Yale is to modify the regular route to account for the needs of most undergraduates. Merely extending the shuttle’s traditional daytime route to the evening hours from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. does not solve the fundamental problem: the Minibus does not make enough stops on the central campus to be useful to undergraduates.
A freshman who hops on the Minibus at Phelps Gate, for instance, would have to wait up to 15 minutes simply for the bus to arrive at Phelps, and then another 12 minutes for the bus to travel to Payne-Whitney Gymnasium or 17 minutes for the bus to travel to the School of Management. Even if the two buses on this route ran perfectly on time, which Yale Transit warns may not happen, the total trip time for most undergraduates would likely exceed 30 minutes. As a result of excessive point-to-point times, many students are deterred from attempting to ride the Minibus in the first place.
In order to more successfully accommodate the nighttime transportation needs of all Yale students, the nighttime Minibus must become more convenient and more accessible to undergraduates.
First, Yale Transit ought to designate one Minibus to travel a shorter, more shuttle-like route on the central campus. This minibus, which would be primarily responsible for meeting the nighttime needs of undergraduates, would circle the central campus and make stops at most of the gates on Old Campus, various residential colleges, Yale libraries and office buildings, Swing Space, Payne-Whitney Gymnasium and Commons.
Second, Yale should encourage students to ride the Minibus as much as possible, as an alternative to calling for an escort. This should be a primary motivation for nighttime Minibus publicity. Along with increasing publicity, Yale ought to permit nighttime minibuses to adapt to student needs, such as making an extra stop at an off-route location if it is convenient to the student and is unlikely to inconvenience other riders.
Third, Yale must modify the dispatch system to allow students to reach the dispatcher more easily. Enabling students to call for the Minibus without having to navigate a menu of options is extremely important since blue phones have a tendency to time out if calls are not answered promptly.
Finally, the hours of the nighttime Minibus designated for the central campus should be lengthened to 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. on weekends. This would allow the nighttime Minibus to be used for both social and academic purposes, a convenience that would, in turn, result in increased awareness and usage of the minibus at all hours of the day and on all days of the week.
Administrators need to know that the nighttime Minibus system plays an integral role in both transportation and security at Yale. We need a system of transportation that we can actually use, not one aimed at graduate students. Only when we know that the bus will arrive on time, and take us to where we need to go while the night is still young, will the nighttime Minibus be a success.
Alan Kennedy-Shaffer is a sophomore in Davenport College. He is chairman of the Yale College Council Security Subcommittee.