Hausladen: Make Way For Seniors

Diana Li PhotoThe city’s new transit chief crashed a hearing on seniors—and drove home a message about helping New Haven’s growing elderly population navigate buses and crosswalks.

The transit chief, former downtown Alderman Doug Hausladen, delivered that message at a CIty Hall hearing Thursday night. The hearing, held by the Board of Alders Human Services Committee, examined the challenges of a growing senior population amid declining public help.

After Hausladen saw a Facebook post about the hearing by Alderman Darryl Brackeen Jr., he decided to stop by to explain how transportation policies can play in a role in improving senior citizens’ qualify of life.

From 2010 to 2015, the number of seniors in Connecticut is projected increase by almost 12 percent amidst rapidly declining services. Human Services Committee Chairman Santiago Berrios-Bones said he remembers when the city had 12 operating senior centers with over 20 employees. Now it has three centers operated by just six employees.

“This problem is like Medusa: It has too many heads,” said Berrios-Bones, a Fair Haven alderman.

Diana Li Photo

All Aboard

New haven has an estimated 12,000 seniors now. Service providers and senior centers are facing ever-increasing demand with limited resources.

Hausladen noted ways his department can help. Making the streets more walkable, accessible, and safe and improving the bus system would enable the elderly to get around the city, he said. The city is asking the state to put GPS trackers on buses to enable people to tell more easily when buses are coming. As access to driving decreases for those growing older, people still need transportation options, he said.

“We want to create inexpensive engineering design solutions that will narrow crossing distances to allow pedestrians to cross more safely,” Hausladen said. “We need to make sure our sidewalks are flat, we need benches at bus stops: things like that to improve getting around.” These simple things would go a long way to improving transportation possibilities for the elderly.

Dwight Alderman Frank Douglass asked Hausladen about the Chapel-Church intersection, where crossing distances are over 60 feet.

Hausladen called it one of the “craziest” in the city. The city is waiting to hear from a consultant and is looking into reducing crossing distance and converting one-way streets to two-way streets, which might help with some of the traffic and walkability problems, he said.

Bella Vista Alderman Barbara Constantinople said she herself has difficulty sometimes getting across streets because of their poor design and the traffic.

“We need to design a system that takes into account all users, not just those who can do an eight-minute mile but also our children, our elderly, and our disabled population,” Hausladen said. “We have to fix our system to design it for all these people.”

He added that Mayor Toni Harp wants the public’s suggestions for calming traffic and making streets more walkable. Currently, his department is looking into extending the sidewalk at certain intersections so people can cross streets more safely. The Complete Streets program is part of the broader attempt to achieve these goals.

Berrios-Bones admitted that he himself gets confused by the bus routes and wishes they were simpler. Hausladen said his department has been in touch with CT Transit about how to improve that signage to guide riders.

Next Steps

“We’re not exactly everyone’s favorite people,” said Don Dimenstein, a former city director of elderly services. “There are a lot of other social causes in this town, all of them in great need. But in terms of support and finance, they’re way ahead of us. … We need a base of community support.”

He added that in neighborhoods like the Hill and Fair Haven, access to services is either sparse or nonexistent. The poor and the elderly are often the same people, he said. Their voices aren’t always heard.

“But you forget: most of the elders vote,” Berrios-Bones said in response with a smile.

Dimenstein responded that from his personal experience it is still difficult to generate community support and financial backing for the elderly.

Berrios-Bones asked Migdalia Castro, the city’s newly appointed elderly services director, how her department is planning for this “silver tsunami” of an increasing elderly population. She called it a complex issue and said she looks forward to hearing everyone’s ideas.

“It’s time to get out of the box and be creative,” Castro said.

Tags: , ,

Post a Comment

Commenting has closed for this entry


posted by: 14yearsinNHandgone on March 3, 2014  1:22pm

Berrios-Bones asked Migdalia Castro, the city’s newly appointed elderly services director, how her department is planning for this “silver tsunami” of an increasing elderly population. She called it a complex issue and said she looks forward to hearing everyone’s ideas.

(That sounds like “I have no idea” to me.)

posted by: anonymous on March 3, 2014  2:30pm

The “silver tsunami” will hit the suburbs like a freight train with no brakes.

New Haven has many seniors, but on the whole it has an opposite trend. It is getting younger, and will continue to get younger. 

If we want businesses in New Haven to succeed, though, we need to attract older adults from the rapidly-aging suburbs to continue shopping here. That means upgrading the bus system and making it possible for seniors to walk downtown without risking their lives on the crosswalks.

posted by: Shaggybob on March 3, 2014  4:01pm

It amazes me in this day and age how we can’t get a GPS on a State run transportation system bus, i.e the CT Transit buses- other City’s have them all over the country and they are NOT expensive- passenger rates just increased, so what’s the problem??
There is GPS on all Government, State and City fleets, school buses, Utility vehicles, all emergency vehicles and just about every modern private vehicle.
Is CT Transit just too afraid that this app will be proof positive on how horribly inept our local transit system is ?? The buses are so far off schedule most days some don’t even show up.

posted by: mm on March 3, 2014  5:34pm


“If we want businesses in New Haven to succeed, though, we need to attract older adults from the rapidly-aging suburbs to continue shopping here.”

What utter nonsense!  Older adults from the suburbs don’t shop in New Haven and haven’t done so since the development of major suburban shopping cenbters in the 1950s and 60s. Therefore, they will NOT CONTINUE shopping in New Haven.  Except for trips to ethnic specialty providers such as Italian Bakeries and butchers, the kosher butcher on Amity Road and maybe a trip to Ikea (none of which are in the central business district) there is no shopping to attract older suburban residents to New Haven.  Gone are the days of downtown department stores, fine ladies dress shops, better mens haberdashers and shoe stores.  With Yale corporation insisting on pushing out independent retailers and bringing in the J Crews and Urban Outfitters of the world, older suburbanites will continue to shop outside of New Haven.
It doesn’t matter what changes you make to the bus schedules, if there are no suitable shopping destinations for these older suburbanites, they won’t come.
New Haven has reinvented itself as a dining and entertainment destination, neither of which is high on the list of suburban elderly demand.

The one demand New Haven supplies to subuirban elderly is healthcare, BUT Yale Mediacl Center is busy opening locations in all the area suburbs for doctors visits, blood drawing, outpatient surgery and theraphy. No need to come into the city except for the most serious care or in-hospital stays.

posted by: JustAnotherTaxPayer on March 3, 2014  9:30pm

I have seen some of these “traffic calming” devices, many which are ineffective, others that are just counter productive.
    The addition of marked bicycle lanes, 400% increases in pavement traffic patterns, additional signage, all rely on the assumption that the majority of motorists actually see these, and respond to them. As an example, the next time you are driving in New Haven, or any nearby town, and you encounter a speed limit sign, or a “slow school” sign, with a posted decrease of 10 MPH in the marked “school zone”, or a blinking yellow overhead “caution” light, or a marked pedestrian cross walk, or a sign signifying the need for caution as deer from nearby woods are a hazard (like Forest Rd in New Haven)and try and observe the other motorists in front or behind you. Watch. See how very few respond to these warnings, and drive accordingly. You won’t see many. So why do these public officials believe these new markings will be effective? They don’t. They see this as a gimmick to acquire state and federal tax dollars, to add to their budgets, to distribute to allies, or their designees, to create jobs with benefits and pensions, to reward those that work for their campaigns.

If anyone in city management was really concerned about the seniors on foot downtown, they would have cleared all the bus stops, and crosswalks, and corner cuts, of snow first this winter. But they never did, and still have not in most of these areas in the city, including the areas around senior housing complexes. Shameless, and reassured that their opinion of the public’s ignorance as to actual events, and the failure of the local government to improve the living conditions of New Haven taxpayers, will perpetuate their employment, and salaries. Their disdain for the residents of New Haven knows no bounds.

posted by: teachermama on March 4, 2014  9:10am

Thanks Doug and all who support these changes.  As a young mom, anything that helps seniors to cross streets also helps me.  I’m no speed train with a stroller or a toddler in tow, or a baby strapped to my chest.  When you are advocating for the silvers, you should recall that you are also speaking up for young families. 

And the economics, from my perspective? I have grocery dollars, pharmacy dollars, gift dollars, coffee dollars, and entertainment dollars to spend, either in New Haven or in the suburbs.  I love going downtown with my kids but absolutely find the crosswalks intimidating, especially when almost every time I go downtown, a car runs through a red light as I am about to cross. 

Cars parking over crosswalks and cub cuts is another small but extremely debilitating factor that shies me away from the city at times.  (Ex: in front of Westville PO, at a four-way offset crosswalk, there is zero enforcement of the no-parking zone.) From the parents of young kids, the seniors, and those with disabilities, keep up your advocacy!