An additional shuttle to New Haven departing every Saturday at 10 a.m. began running last weekend, complementing the existing Friday and Sunday shuttles. Given the popularity of the New Haven Shuttles, members of the Wesleyan Student Assembly’s (WSA) Transportation Committee thought that offering a third shuttle time would be more accommodating to students.
“We thought the Saturday shuttle would give students more flexibility because they would be able to be at Wesleyan on Friday night, or come back on Saturday,” said Transportation Committee Chair Jen Liebschutz ’11.
The New Haven Shuttle now departs from the Usdan University Center at 6 p.m. on Friday, 10 a.m. on Saturday and 3 p.m. on Sunday. In all three cases, the shuttle arrives at the New Haven Train Station one hour after leaving the University.
According to Liebschutz, the fact that students bought enough tickets to fill up the first Saturday shuttle underlines student desire for more accessible modes of off-campus travel.
“Students are always asking for more transportation options,” Liebschutz said. “We thought it would be really helpful because we got such a positive response from the shuttles. A lot of students are taking advantage of them.”
With the addition of the third shuttle, the rider fee will rise from $5 to $9. A combination of increased operational costs and economic constraints necessitated the price hike, which reverses the recent trend of decreases in the shuttle fee. When the New Haven Shuttle Service first began, the University charged $15 per person one way. The University reduced this price to $8 in fall 2007, and cut it further to $5 in spring 2008. According to David Meyer, director of Public Safety, trimming the fee was an attempt to increase the number of students using the shuttle service. The strategy seemed to work; according to Liebschutz, both shuttles have regularly run at full or near-full capacity since the price change. However, decreasing the fee ensured that the program would be regularly losing money. To keep student costs low, the University agreed to cover the deficit caused by the price cut.
Though Liebschutz expects student use to expand with the addition of the third shuttle, increased operational costs accompanying the new vehicle combined with University budget cuts in light of the economic recession necessitated the fee increase to $9. This ensures that the program will at least financially break even. Liebschutz added that the University initially planned to raise the fee to $10, but she and other members of the Transportation Committee—
including Alexandra San Roman ’11, Amy Blume ’11 and David Markowitz ’11—negotiated the one-dollar reduction.
Meyer emphasized the importance of working with the committee to come up with a reasonable fee that would encourage students to continue to utilize the service while still covering operational costs.
“I think what we’ve tried to do with the Transportation Committee is work out affordable solutions for students, considering some of the limits on mass transportation, [that won’t cost] University money and is cost effective for students,” Meyer said.
Before the additional shuttle was implemented, Transportation Service considered outsourcing the New Haven Shuttle. Access to University vehicles is often restricted, as they serve multiple purposes on campus.
“We are limited in when and how often the shuttle can run because we are using Wesleyan-owned vans, which are also used for sports and other academic field trips,” Liebschutz said. “We were hoping this year to have the shuttle service outsourced because hours would be more flexible.”
While outsourcing would allow for more adaptable shuttle hours, according to Meyer, there is currently not enough demand for the shuttle to merit outsourcing.
Besides improving the New Haven Shuttle, Transportation Services is continuing to enhance other areas of University transportation. According to Liebschutz, Transportation Services is always open to Transportation Committee suggestions, a sentiment with which Meyer agrees.
“[Transportation Committee] brings us suggestions and we’ve worked through them and started several new things throughout the year,” Meyer said. “We’ll always be adjusting them based on feedback from students and ridership, etc.”
Along with the added New Haven Shuttle time, both Transportation Services and the Transportation Committee are jointly considering changes to shuttle departure and return times, in response to student requests to have shuttles running earlier on Friday and later on Sunday. Any potential changes in departure times would not go into effect until after spring break.
Apart from the New Haven Shuttle, Transportation Services now offers free DATTCO shuttles every morning at 8 a.m. to a commuter lot with access to buses to Hartford or New Haven. Improvements to the RIDE service, as well as a continuing investigation of putting a Zipcar on campus, both remain underway.