Following a successful summer pilot, Yale University Shuttle has decided to permanently install the “grocery shuttle,” which takes Yalies to Trader Joe’s in Orange, CT.
The new route, which runs on weekends, has four stops on campus, and then takes students to a Trader Joe’s about 25 minutes away. The route — which the Graduate and Professional Student Senate has pushed for since last year — is primarily aimed at graduate and professional school students. A GPSS survey sent in the spring found that students considered limited access to grocery stores as a major flaw in the Yale transit system. Kelly Backes GRD ’22, the current advocacy chair of the GPSS, helped lead efforts to establish the shuttle route.
“The Yale transit system does take you to the Stop & Shop in New Haven, but that’s honestly a terrible grocery store … and it’s just not ideal,” Backes said. “And other than that, the city of New Haven itself is a food desert. So [the GPSS] singled that out as an issue we could attempt to tackle over the course of one semester.”
Backes, along with two other members of the GPSS, met with the heads of the Yale transit system over the course of the spring semester, and designed a route. They settled on the Trader Joe’s in Orange because it is located in a shopping center, and there is also a TJ Maxx and a Whole Foods nearby.
Yale University Shuttle agreed to pilot the route over the summer, but Backes said some students worried that the usage would be low given the high numbers of people who leave campus in June and July. As a result, these students cited concerns that the shuttle may be cancelled. But their concerns proved to be unnecessary — according to Backes, the shuttle was a success from the very beginning.
“The pilot ended up being so wildly successful that me and the people working on this got an email from [a representative of Yale transit] saying, ‘after the first weekend of operation, the only comment I have is I think we need a bigger bus,’” Backes said.
Backes followed up with Yale University Shuttle during the fall semester, and they assured her that the pilot would become a permanent shuttle route that would run during the daytime on Saturdays and Sundays.
Backes has a car, so she does not use the shuttle, but she does go to Trader Joe’s on the weekends and she says it is often full of Yale graduate and professional students. GPSS President Hao Xing GRD ’22 said he uses the shuttle, which has improved his shopping experience.
“Compared to a normal $20 Uber ride to Trader Joe’s, the shuttle provides a very convenient and inexpensive way for me to visit stores with a low price tag, fresh produce and healthy options,” Xing wrote in an email to the News. “It also allows me to explore and support Connecticut local businesses.”
Lucylle Armentano GRD ’21, the chair of the Graduate Student Assembly, said the initiative is an important first step toward making transit more accessible to graduate students.
The GSA has been working to provide various types of free transportation to Yale graduate students. Currently, they are advocating for student access to the UPASS, which allows free use of Connecticut public transportation.
“I think this service is so critical for graduate students, particularly those who live in New Haven itself where we hear frequently about the lack of affordable grocery store options,” Armentano said.
Students can track the location of the shuttle on the DoubleMap app.
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