Should Carolyn Drive Or Bus To Gateway?

Melissa Bailey PhotoCarolyn Bradley can drive her Lincoln Navigator to Gateway Community College, or take a bus. Over 8,000 students and staffers will make similar decisions as they descend on the new downtown campus in two weeks—decisions that will in turn determine how clogged streets become.

Bradley (pictured), of North Branford, is one of 7,800 students expected to attend Gateway in the fall semester, which starts on Sept. 4. Students and 240 full-time staffers will report to a new $198 million campus at Church and George streets.

In Bradley’s case, that means trying to squeeze a Lincoln Navigator into a low-ceilinged garage, or driving to a suburban lot, then walking to a bus stop.

Gateway moved downtown from a campus on Long Wharf, right off Interstate 95, as well as from a North Haven campus.

As students stopped by to enroll in classes and pick up books Friday morning, college staff and city officials outlined efforts to encourage Gateway commuters to walk, bike, carpool or take the bus instead of driving alone.

The college has 1,300 parking spots—600 in a new parking garage and 700 in the adjacent Temple Street Parking Garage. Students and staff are allowed to park there for free.

The college will bring thousands of drivers to downtown streets, some unfamiliar with the area.

“It will be hectic when it opens. I don’t want anyone to think there won’t be traffic,” said city transportation chief Jim Travers.

The students won’t pour in all at once, assured Gateway spokeswoman Evelyn Gard. The commuters will arrive at different times of day to the campus, which offers classes from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., six days a week. About 30 percent of students live in New Haven, she said.

To lessen traffic, Gateway worked with the city to make sure classes don’t start or end during morning or afternoon rush hour, Gard said. And the city has helped Gateway promote mass transit and other environmentally friendly methods of transportation other than cars.

Gateway students will get free CT Transit bus passes for the first 30 days of school, according to mayoral spokeswoman Elizabeth Benton.

To encourage students to arrive by bicycle, the college included 90 spots for bicycles in its new parking garage, which has 600 spots for cars. The building is secure: a New Haven Parking Authority security guard make sure only to students and staff with Gateway IDs get inside. The bike racks are inside the basement and ground floor of the garage, sheltered from the weather.

Students who get sweaty on the ride to campus can freshen up in the college locker rooms below the garage. The men’s and women’s locker rooms each have 10 lockers and three showers.

Gateway’s Gard led tours of the bike-friendly amenities Friday morning, when the college hosted Elm City Cycling’s monthly Bike To Work Day in its courtyard.

In Gateway’s new garage, new spots are reserved for fuel-efficient cars. There are also spots reserved for those who carpool, which is “a huge, hunking deal for us!” Gard said.

Gateway worked with a state program called CTRides to help staff set up carpools.

“We’re encouraging alternate methods of transportation” in an effort to go green, Gard said. The building was designed to be LEED gold-certified, a standard of environmental friendliness; that certification won’t take place until a year after the building opens, she said.

Gateway’s old campus on Long Wharf sat in an industrial strip, a quick stop off the highway. Few people biked or walked there. Now, as the college relocates, opportunities are opening for green commuting.

Transportation czar Travers said he has already spoken to teachers from Wooster Square and East Rock who plan to walk to work. Gateway never had a transportation staffer, and there’s no baseline data on how commuters arrived on campus, so Travers said he does not have an estimate of how many bikers, walkers, drivers and bus-takers there will be.

Students polled in an informal sidewalk survey at Gateway Friday had a variety of ways of getting there.

Amanda Martin of West Haven said she got a ride to campus to pick up her books for classes in psychology, biology, communications and U.S. history. When classes start, she plans to take a taxi or a bus, she said. “I don’t have a car.”

Asked if she would be interested in bicycling, she said: “I’m thinking about it.” But she lives on the Boston Post Road, and it would take at least half an hour to pedal in.

Destiny Fields (pictured), who’s 21, plans to take CT Transit’s C Bus from her home “off Exit 8” of I-91 in New Haven.

Marvin Browning, who also lives off Exit 8 in New Haven, said he plans to drive.

“I’m not a biker.  I don’t have a bike,” he said.

An older student named Carol said she drove from East Haven. Asked if she’d consider other modes of transit, she said no, because after school, she has to travel to work.

Carolyn Bradley (pictured at the top of this story), who’s 36, is making a mid-life career switch. She currently operates heavy machinery like “rock trucks” and “rollers” for a construction company. She plans to continue doing that work by day as she starts to study nursing at night.

Bradley, of North Branford, said her husband gave her a ride Friday. In the future, she plans to drive her Lincoln Navigator SUV to Gateway—if she can fit it into the parking garage. The clearance on Gateway’s new garage is 7 feet. That is just the height of her vehicle, she said.

“I’ve gotta make sure the car fits in the lot, or else I’ll have to take the nearest bus,” she said. The Temple Street Garage is no help. It has a 6-foot clearance.

In order to take a bus to New Haven, Bradley would have to drive to Stop ‘n’ Shop in Branford and walk to the bus stop outside the Chowder Pot restaurant, she said. She lamented that the garage was not built to accommodate either of her cars—the SUV or her Ford F350 truck.

“The school’s nice,” she said of Gateway, “but the parking is going to be a problem.”

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posted by: Jon Doe on August 17, 2012  1:33pm

I have asking that same question since I heard they were putting that collage Down Town. The Traffic and Parking? This was just a way the city saw our money problems being fixed WATCH Increase in Parking tickets and more money for the Parking Meters and Garages.

What did they think was going to happen when you stick 8,000 more people coming into the city Mon-Fri.

posted by: PH on August 17, 2012  2:50pm

Ms. Bradley should downsize her vehicle.  She may be used to working with heavy machinery, but that doesn’t mean you need a gas-guzzling behemoth to get to school.  Or, since she is unlikely to do that, she can stick her bike in the back of her monstrosity and park farther away for free and then bike in—reduce congestion downtown, save on parking and get some exercise.  Win win win 70% of the time (yeah, it will be cold or rainy some days).

posted by: Long Time NH Resident on August 17, 2012  3:02pm

Ok. How much more traffic? Hey, lets close Rt 34 at Church Street and see what happens- oh wait, that happened with the rain last week and traffic coming INTO town at 6pm was backed up to 91 and Gridlock occurred all around State/Church/Orange and George.No police anywhere. The streets are not going to be any wider past the exit ramp so exactly where is this traffic supposed to go ?? Not against the RT 34 project only concerned about the obvious traffic issues.
If CT Transit ran a dependable transit system more people would have the option to use it. So many no show buses on Saturday and especially Sunday. Starting to wonder if CT Transit is working with the cab companies.

posted by: Quadzilla on August 17, 2012  3:03pm

Maybe Carolyn should trade in either the F350 or Navigator for a smaller more practical vehicle, then she could fit.

Also is Shoreline East a possibility? The walk from both the State Street and Union Street train stations is pretty short and easy, even in inclement weather.

posted by: AyJoe on August 17, 2012  3:26pm

Great move for Gateway, and certainly to transform the city and stimulate the local economy, as opposed to having the school on an island at long wharf.

posted by: robn on August 17, 2012  3:44pm

Shoreline East and Metro North is a great option for coastal students. MN runs hourly and more frequent in morning. SE has trains about every 30 minutes until @9-10. The Branford leg is $2.75 one way or @$64/month.

North Branford or other northerly locals….you’re probably driving.

posted by: DingDong on August 17, 2012  4:19pm

Why does the college provide free parking forever but free bus passes only for 30 days?  If they really want to encourage people not to drive, the bus pass should always be free and the parking should have a fee.

posted by: anonymous on August 17, 2012  7:11pm

Raise the cost of parking to what the actual cost of providing it is. That’s what every other civilized nation on the planet does. The way we have it now, our poorest and most disadvantaged residents subsidize the cost of providing parking to those who drive.  These subsidies are also “built in” to the fees charged by Gateway, and the increased tax dollars necessary to build $3 billion highway exchanges. The pollution from induced traffic demand has enormous costs too.

It would be better to use that money instead to provide universal high quality Pre-K and day care for every child in the State, high quality public schools, the elimination of poverty, advanced R&D and culture investments, and transportation, so we didn’t continue to have a 20% unemployment rate, 25% child poverty rate. We might actually start competing with other countries again if we did this, which is ostensibly the goal of the State of CT/Gateway but which, in truth, is a goal that is directly obstructed by their backwards and inequitable policies.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on August 17, 2012  7:21pm

To encourage students to arrive by bicycle, the college included 90 spots for bicycles in its new parking garage, which has 600 spots for cars.

Are mopeds and Motorcycles allowed to use these spots with the bikes.

posted by: Doctor Who on August 18, 2012  12:11am

Drive!  With quality of Connecticut and New Haven drivers in particular, cycling is not safe.

posted by: Doctor Who on August 18, 2012  12:13am

For all the people telling Carolyn to trade her car—- basic economics tells us a paid off vehicle is much more economical than some whiz bang newer more “economical” car that somehow requires car payments.

posted by: rob on August 18, 2012  10:43am

New Haven is a commuter city that is 98% developed with no room for mass transit infrastructure. More than 70% of New Haven’s economy depends on people with college degrees driving in from the suburbs. The idealism of city planners is commendable but misplaced. Every time they remove a meter or displace parking, they are making it less appealing as a place to work. Putting Gateway in a landlocked spot instead of several blocks away on the Rte 34 to nowhere was a shortsighted decision for the fastest growing community college in the state (Go Gateway!), City planners are well-intended, but the bad publicity of this latest hijacking of parking from working people will be remembered long after they have moved on to their next salt lake city style innovation.

posted by: LynneB on August 18, 2012  10:47am

What about a subsidized urail pass that is good on all public transportation? They have such passes in Seattle WA and other cities that are very successful and offer needed flexibility in meeting transportation needs.

posted by: anonymous on August 18, 2012  8:13pm

“If they really want to encourage people not to drive…”

Unfortunately, leadership doesn’t want a policy like that, because they suffer none of the negative impacts of their backwards and inequitable policies, at least directly.

Every bad decision has its price.  The window dressing and PR stunts (like “job pipeline” reports, a few bike racks, and 30 day bus passes) are in abundance at Gateway, but in reality, our leaders are literally killing people in the communities that they pretend to represent.

posted by: Miss E on August 20, 2012  11:28am

Downtown New Haven is already H.A.M.. HOT ASS MESS..I can only begin to imagine what it is going to be when 8,000 MORE people descend on that small area..

posted by: HhE on August 20, 2012  11:07pm

Have I lost the point of moving Gateway to downtown?  I thought it was to promote access to the school for local residents who would use public transport (bus and rail) and muscle powered transport solutions (foot and cycle)? 

If it just needed more space, The Register has a building they are looking to sell. 

Threefifths, do really think bike racks are appropriate for motorcycles?  A moped might fit.  It may make considerable sense for Gateway to re-stripe a portion of the parking spaces for two wheeled motor vehicles. 

I find SUVs and crossovers (Land Rovers aside) vulgar and beyond the pale.  Doctor Who, economics can refer to money, but can also reference global resources.  A new Lincoln Navigator (list $57k) is rated for 14mpg city/20 mpg highway.  A month ago, I would have agreed with you about cycles and Connecticut’s hideous drivers, but I have been cycling recently, and for the most part feel safe.  Finally, how exactly does a car loan work?  Ought anyone buy a “luxury” car if they cannot buy it out right? 

Enough of my moralising.  While rail is not a realistic option for Ms. Bradley, for people using the train, this may be a good compliment:

At the end of the day, this is a dialectic of live and work local with minimal use of the car vs. an auto centric suburban model.  I’ve wasted too much of my life behind the wheel getting to work.  So I favor the former.

posted by: trylon on August 21, 2012  9:50am

This is a continiuing example of why “Cities” are much greener than the suburbs.  Classes start as early as 6:00 am, the are no classes scheduled during the normal morning and evening rush hours, and classes are scheduled up till 11:00 pm.  What a great success the city will be able to boast about when this integration works smoothly.
Isn’t this exactly why downtown New Haven is more vibrant than Hartford, Bridgeport and Waterbury!

posted by: Long Time NH Resident on August 22, 2012  8:57am

trylon, no offense, but what are talking about? You are not seeing the politics of this city at work. Do you realize that over 400 daily parkers were removed from the lots to make room for Gateway and they were NOT given an alternate parking option. Mass transportation in this area is HIGHLY unreliable and cannot be depended on. Especially in the evening hours. You obliviously have never waited two hours for buses that don’t show up.Gateway is a wonderful thing, just not downtown. Placing more stress on an already over burdened parking problem is not a good move. This City never thinks to the future in that respect- They offer bike parking, but no bike lanes to get there- see… Been here for over 30 years and see it clearly-please take off your goggles and look around here. Yale is in charge.

posted by: HhE on August 22, 2012  11:41am

Shaggybob, how exactly does moving Gateway to downtown advance Yale’s evil agenda?  When this idea was first mooted, a member of the Board of Yale Corporation expressed distress over this.  In his view, Gateway ought to have gone where the Coliseum was, and Long Wharf ought to go where Gateway is now.  (He was also a member of Long Wharf Theatre Board, and at the time, Long Wharf was expected to lose its lease to higher paying meat wholesalers.) 

I completely get what trylon is on about.  Cities and street car build out suburbs are far greener than 2 cars and 2 acres per family could ever be.

Last night, at the Downtown/Wooster Square CMT, this issue came up.  A former student at Gateway expressed the need of students to be able to drive from work to school rapidly.  This was balanced against the typical $9,000 per year a car costs and the economic growth of that area of downtown. 

Yes there will be problems in the near term, and at the end of the day, this may not be for the best.  I believe it will be is sum a positive change.