UT Profile: Diverse fleet helps Yale service navigate urban routes

Posted on July 23, 2012

One year after taking over Yale University’s bus system, Greg Tower, GM for First Transit, touts the service's ability to effectively move students, staff and faculty in an urban environment.

“Here at Yale, you have to compete with all the city commotion, which includes delivery trucks, public transportation and rush hour, one of our biggest challenges is operating in New Haven, where the crime rate isn’t exactly ideal and you have all those variables that can impact service,” said Tower.

To help navigate the urban environment, Yale launched a unique door-to-door service that enables the university’s community to contact the dispatch center and get picked up by a Yale University Shuttle bus driver.

“We upgraded to wireless tablets on the buses, so after the passenger calls into the dispatch center, the manifest populates on that tablet and the driver will go pick up the passenger,” explained Tower. “When they’re close, the passenger receives a call and we bring them to their destination using the door-to-door service. It keeps them safe and keeps them from having to walk at night. During the day, our door-to-door service is for the handicap only.”

Greg Tower, GM for First Transit, has lead Yale Shuttle since July 2011.
Greg Tower, GM for First Transit, has lead Yale Shuttle since July 2011.
The fleet includes 45 vehicles that run on B20 biodiesel. At peak times, there are 20 to 22 vehicles on the road and 12 to 15 in the evenings. Peak school year ridership is between 40,000 to 50,000 passengers a week, according to Tower.

Yale’s shuttle service recently added two new MV-1s from VPG, one of which runs on compressed natural gas.

The American designed and made MV-1 is the first of its kind designed specifically for wheelchair accessibility. The new vehicles include ample head room, a low step-in flat floor, and deployable ramp that is electric-powered for quick and easy passenger access. It can comfortably fit two wheelchairs and two additional passengers.

Over the next few years, Yale’s Parking and Transit will collect data for a side-by-side comparison of fuel usage, fuel cost and miles driven. These statistics will be used for future fleet purchases, especially when Yale units are considering buying natural gas vehicles, which is in keeping with goal of diversifying the Yale fleet by purchasing more alternative fuel vehicles.

The MV-1s were set to hit the road this summer.

“Having this type of vehicle that is ADA-equipped right from the start is very exciting,” said Tower.

While Tower explained that the well-established shuttle system has needed only a little tweaking, he added that the system hopes it will rely more heavily on its TransLoc automatic vehicle locator system, rather than rigid time points.

“We’ve worked on training the passengers to be more aware of TransLoc and to use it as a tool, which is phenomenal,” said Tower. “That is just one way we continue to change with the times just as everyone else is.”

BUSCON:   Want to know more about alternative fuels? A presentation on this and other hot topics will be featured at the 17th Annual BusCon Expo, taking place September 11-12 at Chicago’s Navy Pier. Visit or call (800) 576-8788 for more information.

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