About 50 faculty, students and Elm City residents gathered at the Yale Law School Saturday to discuss how best to harmonize Yale and New Haven transportation systems, from cycling to driving to public transit.
The event was the second installment of the three-part Yale and New Haven Discussion Series, a string of conversations between the Yale community and city residents designed to bring seldom-heard voices to Yale dialogues and foster better relations between “the two New Havens,” as stated on the series website.
“It’s important to hear from the people who are actually affected by issues of transportation,” said Nadine Herring, a native New Haven resident and one of the four panelists for the Saturday event. “A lot of people are not included in these conversations, and I hope this series will bring more voices to the table.”
Herring serves as engagement advocate for SeeClickFix, a communications platform on which citizens can report city issues to their local governments.
The other three panelists were Anstress Farwell, founder of the advocacy group New Haven Urban Design League, Mark Abraham ’04, executive director of the non-profit DataHaven, and Holly Parker, head of the consulting firm Nelson Nygaard and former director of Sustainable Transportation Systems at Yale.
The panelists mainly discussed the separation of Yale’s and New Haven’s bus systems.
Event attendee Hillary Aidun LAW ’17 said the Law School’s orientation program did not introduce students to the city’s public transit system. A good starting point for bridging the divide between the two bus systems, she said, would be to integrate information about CT Transit into programming for new students.
Attendees also focused on the disparity in quality between each system’s service. Barbara Fair, a New Haven resident and prominent activist, said CT Transit had unreliable schedules and long waiting times. Fair said she called the state Department of Transportation numerous times to express her concerns, but received no sign that her complaints were being taken seriously.
Herring said during the panel that while Yale students see public transit as just another transportation option, most New Haven residents have no choice but to use it.
To compensate for budget cuts, state transportation officials are planning to raise bus fares by 17 percent starting next month.
In the panel discussion, Abraham cited a survey study that rated transportation as the largest barrier to finding and maintaining a job. However, Parker responded with optimism that CT Transit would improve.
“There are simply realities of budgets and timeframes,” she said. “For things to end up in policy, that takes time. That’s why even if it seems like you’re not getting anywhere, you just have to keep talking.”
At one point, Fair said the government takes Yale students’ voices more seriously than those of New Haven residents, but Parker disagreed.
Though progress seemed too slow to Fair and other attendees, Parker said significant progress has been made with transportation in New Haven. She cited recent programs such as Zipcar, Yale’s Bike Share and Move New Haven — the latter of which is a City Hall study on the transit mobility of New Haven residents.
Parker said Yale was a “living laboratory” for transit officials to experiment with different strategies and learn about what they might implement in the city.
The third and final session of the Yale and New Haven Discussion Series will occur on Nov. 17 and focus on public health and wellness.