For students who have had to use Yale Special Services Transportation, inaccurate arrival times may become a problem of the past.
The Yale College Council submitted a proposal that outlines several measures to improve Special Services Transportation, a van service that transports members of the Yale community who are permanently or temporarily disabled. The main component of the YCC’s initiative calls for the vehicles to be tracked via GPS and their routes displayed on a smartphone application. Similar to Uber, users will be able to pin both their location and desired destination on the GPS app for both passengers and drivers to see, YCC project leader Benjamin Martin ’17 said.
According to students interviewed, the app would help improve the service.
“I was on crutches for about four months and the call service was inefficient,” Martin said. “Arrival times were not accurate and being handicapped, you would have to rush outside in order to not miss your ride.”
According to Martin, students would not only be able to see an outlined route to their destination, but would also be able to track the position of their driver before arrival, eliminating the current problem of inaccurate arrival notifications. He added that Yale Special Services is considering several GPS apps from various companies.
Currently, drivers only wait three minutes at the designated location to pick up a student. If they do not see the student by that time, they are allowed to drive away to their next destination. This policy, coupled with various student disabilities, has led to a number of alleged instances in which students have had to wait for more than one ride.
“[Special Services] are severely understaffed, and it’s a system with a couple easy fixes that could bring a lot of benefits,” said Michelle Hackman ’15, a disabled student and former city editor for the News. “I’ve missed interviews and very important meetings because of Yale [Special Services].”
Hackman said there have been frequent occurrences where the driver would fail to see her waiting or would not even come. She explained that because she is blind, there was no way for her to know when the driver had arrived unless they first saw her. Once the driver left, the next available ride would often be an hour later, she said.
Other students said even planning far in advance sometimes did not provide enough time to arrive according to schedule.
Christina Kim ’16, another student with a disability, said she sometimes would book a ride an hour ahead of schedule for what should have been a five minute trip. She said the delay was often because drivers would pick up multiple students instead of going straight to and from destinations.
“The GPS service would really help the timing and also help to confirm that the ride has been correctly scheduled,” Kim said. “I’ve had experiences where I would call later on and find out that my ride wasn’t booked so I usually try to have a lot of buffer time before classes.”
In addition to the GPS app, the YCC also proposed to give disabled students priority in reserving rides after 6:00 p.m. and increasing ride availability during peak hours in the day.
Director of the Office on Resource Disabilities Judy York cited the winter weather as one of the reasons for delayed rides. She said both the snow and cold temperatures lead more people to take advantage of Yale’s transit services.
“I have been on the bus several times when it has been stopped in traffic for several minutes because snow banks have created one lane streets in New Haven,” York said. “No vehicle is exempt from the traffic jams, including the Special Service van, and it throws off any good planning in timing rides.”
There are 71 students registered for special services transportation.