UEC/GSA QUALITY OF LIFE SURVEY RESULTS

Heather Ray and Wendy Taylor

For the UEC and the GSA

The Fermilab Usersí Executive Committee (UEC) in partnership with the Fermilab Graduate Student Association (GSA) developed a 14-question survey regarding Quality of Life issues for Users of the laboratory. This survey was distributed via email to users and graduates students on the Usersí Organization mailing list, the Fermilab Graduate Student mailing list and the Young Physicists mailing list on November 1, 2001. Comments were requested by November 8, 2001.

The email with the survey was as follows:

 

At last April's UEC/YPP Town meeting, several quality of life issues were raised. We would like to gather information regarding which improvements would make a significant impact to the most people on site. We have included below some new suggestions and also several initiatives that have been attempted in the past, to no avail. However, we are happy to continue pursuing the latter if the Fermilab User community sees a need. It should be understood that the UEC has no dedicated funds, but we will bring appropriate suggestions to the attention of the University Research Associates and the Fermilab Directorate. In the past, the GSA has been successful in organizing classes at Fermilab directed at resident graduate students and will continue to do so if the level of interest is sufficient.

 

 

Users' Executive Committee

Graduate Student Association

GSA and UEC SURVEY ON QUALITY OF LIFE AT FERMILAB

Please complete and submit the following survey to the UEC by November 8, 2001. It should be mailed to wendyt@fnal.gov and hray@fnal.gov.

Please rate the importance of the following improvements as they relate to your quality of life at Fermilab.

1=strongly disagree 2=disagree 3=don't care 4=agree 5=strongly agree

1) Expand the taxi service to include more vehicles and drivers would be helpful.

2) It would be useful if the taxi service had extended hours throughout the site.

3) It would be helpful if the taxi service had scheduled stops during lunch hour and for colloquia instead of on-demand pick-up service during those times.

4) Signed pickup-dropoff spots near popular destinations (e.g., DZero, CDF, Wilson Hall, the village) would be useful for getting rides around the site.

5) There is a need for transportation around Fermilab on the weekends and holidays.

6) Some kind of service to Frank's Family Foods or to nearby hotels and train stations would be nice.

7) A bicycle rental service/discount-purchasing offer for users on site only would be useful.

8) Extending the walking/bicycle path along Eola Road to DZero would make my commute safer.

9) Although the space crunch at CDF and DZero has been alleviated by the addition of two new buildings, it would be great if the older trailers would undergo maintenance for comfort and safety (e.g., carpets replaced, leaks repaired, etc.). (Please provide detailed suggestions in the Comments section.)

10) The on-site housing system should be overhauled. (Please provide detailed suggestions in the Comments section. This would include cost of housing, time limits on rentals, and physical upkeep to the housing).

11) Finding a doctor who will accept my health insurance (or obtaining health insurance at all) has been a problem. (In the Comments section please add any additional information: e.g., you have insurance from your home university but are unable to find anyone to accept it; your insurance is not transferable to cover you out of your home area; you don't have insurance; you'd like to see a wider range of insurance plans offered through Fermilab for employees and visiting scientists.)

12) The weekly seminars offered in Wilson Hall are of use to me.

13) Semester-long physics classes such as Accelerator Physics and Mathematical Physics have in the past been offered/supported by the GSA. I would be very interested in attending, participating, or lecturing if similar classes were to be organized in the future.

14) Those residing on the Fermilab site would really benefit from getting borrowing privileges for a local library.

GENERAL COMMENTS AND SUGGESTIONS

 

 

GUIDE TO LIFE HANDBOOK

The GSA publishes a handbook for new arrivals at Fermilab. This handbook is geared towards graduate students but can be of great use for visiting scientists and their families as well. The handbook is available through the GSA web-site at http://www.fnal.gov/orgs/gsa/guide2life/guide.html.

In the following Suggestions section, please include any information that you feel should be added to or improved upon in the guide.

SUGGESTIONS FOR GUIDE TO LIFE HANDBOOK

 

We received in total 62 responses to the survey. We have analyzed these responses and this document describes the results. Also solicited in the survey were general or specific comments or suggestions, many of which are very enlightening. We include most of those comments at the end of this document.

 

The following graph depicts the collated responses to the 14 questions in the survey.

Below, the survey questions are grouped into categories and a sampling of the comments collected from the surveys are provided.

 

TAXI SERVICE COMMENTS

1) Expand the taxi service to include more vehicles and drivers would be helpful.

2) It would be useful if the taxi service had extended hours throughout the site.

3) It would be helpful if the taxi service had scheduled stops during lunch hour and for colloquia instead of on-demand pick-up service during those times.

4) Signed pickup-dropoff spots near popular destinations (e.g., DZero, CDF, Wilson Hall, the village) would be useful for getting rides around the site.

5) There is a need for transportation around Fermilab on the weekends and holidays.

6) Some kind of service to Frank's Family Foods or to nearby hotels and train stations would be nice.

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I would really like to see taxi service to the Metra stations. I know a number of people who live downtown and could really benefit from such a service. I am also thinking about moving downtown at some point, but I wouldn't want to fight traffic on the commute everyday. I'd rather use the train.

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Signed pickup-dropoff spots: yes, this would help, and should be fairly cheap to implement.

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I commute from Chicago, and would do so by train if I could get from the train station to Fermilab and then around the Fermilab site using the Fermilab taxi. Depending upon demand, this could be an on-demand (rather than scheduled) service.

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It would be fabulous to have the taxi service have REGULAR pick-up times to take people to train stations. Perhaps at half-hour intervals before the train leaves from the station. It would truly help those of us who don't have cars, especially in the wintertime.

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We really need taxi service which works more than just on site.

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I usually stay at the Best Western. I rent a car since the Taxi service doesn't accommodate that very well. The car is usually the most expensive part of the trip.

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As for the taxi service, changes to it would be mostly of little impact to me (aside from providing a service to the local stations as I live in Chicago). Speaking from experience, having lived on site for a few months before getting a car, changes would be needed which would simplify life a great deal for people who are visiting or have just arrived.

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Some kind of service to Frank's Family Foods or to nearby hotels and ***train stations**** would be *incredibly useful*.

I do not care about Franks or hotels; but a train station shuttle would be extremely -- *extremely* -- useful, convenient and empowering. One could in a more seamless way exploit public transportation in their commute to work if they live in the city or other suburbs the train services. Presently, one has to rely on other commuters for transportation to the lab from the train station, or leave a car at the station overnight and drive it in each morning. The first option is not feasible for those FNAL workers (like graduate students) whose schedules seldom permit leaving work at set times. The second option indeed works in practice but obviously restricts usage of one's car.

The virtues of public transportation are obvious, particularly the positive impact increased usage of public transportation has on the environment. In light of the Lab's public concern for environmental issues (see: prairie restoration) it seems that the Lab should be doing everything it can to enable FNAL workers to use public transportation.

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"No need to expand taxi service" : you already don't have to wait very long for the taxi to show up, and they already stink up the place enough because they are diesel vans.

Don't need a sign or a staging area. Everyone knows how to get the taxi already.

Service to the train station would be incredibly nice.

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Regarding question 6, a service to the train stations would be extremely useful, even if only for 2 times in the morning, and 2 times in the evenings. The train stations are too far away to make it easy to get to Fermilab by train if one doesn't have a prearranged means of travel to/from the stations.

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For taxi service, starting at 8:00 am in the morning is ok, but stopping at 4:00 pm in the afternoon is too early. I can cycle back to Fermi Village in the summer, but what about the cold winter? Please extend the service to 6:30 pm or 7:00 pm.

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While I have found that I can figure out ways to get around at Fermilab, my students and foreign colleagues are not as lucky. Any help that can be given towards getting more dorm rooms or housing available to them and giving them transportation around the lab is a necessity. For instance, more housing on site is needed in the summer for visiting people. At one point there were plans to build more apartments on site that have had to be abandoned. Maybe contracting with an outside apartment complex and providing transportation to that complex during the summer could help this problem?

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I'm not sure you intend to have replies from senior staff at Fermilab. My replies are based on the perceived needs of longer term (mostly foreign) visitors who are not prepared for driving cars, which they probably cannot afford.

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COMMENTS ON TRAILER MAINTENANCE

9) Although the space crunch at CDF and DZero has been alleviated by the addition of two new buildings, it would be great if the older trailers would undergo maintenance for comfort and safety (e.g., carpets replaced, leaks repaired, etc.). (Please provide detailed suggestions in the Comments section.)

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About question 9, for eg., in one of the old trailer I saw a little mouse freely running. The problem is not the mouse per se (I'm not scared by them), but it means that there is a hole on the walls/floor, the hygienic situation is not the best possible, ...

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Regarding question 9, it is clear at CDF that the trailers are in dire need of having a better air-conditioning system. The best solution would be to level the trailers and build a proper complex, but since this is not going to happen, investing in better ways to insulate the trailers and provide better cooling/heating is important.

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Trailers: They are a disgrace and violate the most basic requirements for human surroundings. At least the old ones should be torn down and replaced.

They smell, they are dark, they are tiny, they are extremely loud (I use to sit near an air conditioning and that was like working in an assembly hall). They have cold air blowing up your trousers, they induce claustrophobia, they fall apart (and that might be a good thing). Most of the furniture inside is junk.

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Biggest problem is the disparity in climate control between various offices.

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Get rid of the dead mice that are trapped inside the walls. Make the trailers more mouse-proof.

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Trailers at D0 should be better and more thoroughly cleaned or may be there should be a more thorough cleaning once a month.

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Wrt D0 PK 173: The A/C units suck. Noise levels compare to a Boeing, they should be replaced.

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Let's face it the trailer are nasty. The lighting is bad at best as there are old fluorescent lights which hardly provide enough light (when they work). There are rats occasionally scurrying about (although I haven't seen one in a while), there isn't particularly good air re-circulation, some of the ceilings are moldy, most of the chairs provided are either very old or just uncomfortable (no height adjustment, etc.). I'm not sure as to what can be done to improve the situation without a major overhaul but in my opinion at least the lighting, air circulation, provided chairs and getting rid of all the moldy patches should be looked into.

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The noise level in the trailers is unacceptable. When a neighbor is talking to a colleague (which someone should be allowed to do in their office) it can be very distracting. The air conditioning system is also noisy. The lack of insulation makes it difficult to deal with the changing temperatures outside. Maybe better thermostats would be of help. The windows leak in a blowing rain. However, in general, things that would actually improve the quality of life in the trailers would expensive.

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Lots of problems in the trailers. Air conditioning that worked all the time would be nice. Some of the desks are older than I am.

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Better heating and A/C, specifically:

- Heating ducts at floor level NOT the ceiling!

- More reliable and powerful A/C systems

New carpets, new windows (some offices have no windows at all!), new furniture would be nice - particularly the dividers.

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Updating the trailers: this would be great if possible, but it is not as important (to me, personally) as an extended taxi service. My only specific suggestion would be to move one of the two under-used refrigerators currently in B0 into the kitchen in the CDF trailers.

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Trailers: the air conditioning in the trailers very often has problems keeping temperatures at a tolerable level -- any improvement there would be welcome.

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The carpet and upkeep in the trailers is terrible. At a minimum, new carpet would be nice. This is true in the D0 control room, as well.

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Item 9 directly affects me, but I can't really say the present level of maintenance is unacceptable.

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The older portakamps are HEALTH hazards from the dirt. The older portakamps at D0 are disgustingly filthy. The carpets are worn and full of dirt. There are mice feces through the buildings. The bathrooms are aged and reek. The windows are falling out of their sashes. It's little better than some third world buildings. If little money is available to rectify this I'd at least suggest regular comprehensive cleaning.

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Roofs to be redone, heating systems to be cleaned and replaced, janitorial service to be improved. Also, cleanup of moquettes should be done ONCE a YEAR. I mean DEEP, SERIOUS CLEANING.

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These trailers are too old, they should be replaced not repaired. I think any real work done to really fix them won't be worth it since they are sooo old.

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CDF/DZero trailers - my main concern with the trailers, other than the fact that they are noisy, run-down, and generally uncomfortable, is that they are filthy and indeed even pest- and mold-ridden. I fully expect them to fail air quality standards for office space living. Does the ES&H people realize this? Should we call in some health inspectors to make the point? The cleaning staff could definitely do a better job, but water-logged moldy walls and ceilings are beyond their responsibilities. New carpets and general wide-spread repairs of water damage would help some.

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COMMENTS ON ON-SITE HOUSING

10) The on-site housing system should be overhauled. (Please provide detailed suggestions in the Comments section. This would include cost of housing, time limits on rentals, and physical upkeep to the housing).

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Please try to install Ethernet lines to on-site houses and dorms for visitors, so that they can work and do some calculations during nights or weekends. It could be wireless.

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On-site housing is impossible to get. For the last six years, I have wanted to bring my family to Fermilab for a month or two, but housing is never available for a family of four. They should call the "housing" office, the "no-housing" office.

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It is very important to me that I be able to reserve a dorm room at Fermilab for a few days on a few days' notice. This is my primary housing concern.

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I lived in the dorms for a couple of month and currently spend about 40 days a year on site. (I work for FNAL but am based in Minnesota for MINOS installation.) I'm cheap but I stopped using the dorms about 4 years ago based on the quality of the mattresses and that they always seemed so smelled moldy.

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Maid service is not necessary

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I suspect that there is vacancy in houses rented out to universities. Maybe a web signup would improve efficiency of utilization.

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They still need to fix the internal pipes in many of the houses so that the water doesn't suck. but they're not going to do any of this...

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Fermilab Housing: Not quite so bad (sic. as trailers), but for example the UK house suffers from mould in the bathroom which I hear is bad for you (spores are bad for your lungs, and can be carcinogenic).

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I think that the on-site housing should be more of a temporary living arrangement for most people, and should be available especially to short-term visitors for whom it would be very expensive to get a short term lease in a local apartment. I would propose a maximum stay of 1 year in the houses and perhaps 6 months in the dorms (who could stand the dorm longer than that?) People who want to visit the lab for a couple of weeks or months should not be turned away because a family is occupying a house for 3 years.

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While I have found that I can figure out ways to get around at Fermilab, my students and foreign colleagues are not as lucky. Any help that can be given towards getting more dorm rooms or housing available to them and giving them transportation around the lab is a necessity. For instance, more housing on site is needed in the summer for visiting people. At one point there were plans to build more apartments on site that have had to be abandoned. Maybe contracting with an outside apartment complex and providing transportation to that complex during the summer could help this problem?

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Housing availability is a real problem for visits of 1 to 6 months!

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Housing on site should be inexpensive and plentiful! Grad students live here and should not get hammered with Chicago housing prices.

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HEALTH INSURANCE COMMENTS

 

11) Finding a doctor who will accept my health insurance (or obtaining health insurance at all) has been a problem. (In the Comments section please add any additional information: e.g., you have insurance from your home university but are unable to find anyone to accept it; your insurance is not transferable to cover you out of your home area; you don't have insurance; you'd like to see a wider range of insurance plans offered through Fermilab for employees and visiting scientists.)

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After using up my 2 allowed visits, I get no reimbursement. My insurance makes me return to the university for care. I have to pay 20% copayment even on the allowed 2 visits. My Rx coverage is only good at the campus pharmacy and they refuse to send Rx through the mail. Something must be done, like an onsite doctor and pharmacy.

My health insurance has limited coverage outside home area.

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My health insurance is not transferable to cover me outside my home area (NY); It'd be nice if Fermilab Medical office could offer lab work (X-rays, blood tests, etc) to visiting scientists. The fact that visitors can use the Medical Office to seek for medical advice is great.

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Wrt health insurance: When I first came to Fermilab, I was told I had to have health insurance from Fermilab, because my visa (J-1) supposedly required it. So I took the Fermilab insurance and cancelled my Dutch insurance. Later it turned out the visa requirement is that you need to prove to Fermilab (your employer) that you have health insurance- an easy way is if you buy it from them. Then it turned out that my Dutch insurance had a premium twice as low and far better coverage, so obviously I'd much rather kept that. Of course I only found out about all this, after I had incurred some major medical costs. Conclusion: Fermilab benefits shouldn't have told me their health insurance was required. In fact, they misinformed me on that point, so there is room for improvement, obviously.

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It would be nice if Fermilab allowed visitors to purchase health insurance on a month-to-month basis (if possible). It took me 8 months to get health insurance through my university when I started my post-doc. I would have been willing to pay for insurance through Fermilab in the interim.

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Pertaining to health insurance question - I am a graduate student. My university coverage is great. It is ~ $1000 bucks a year for me, but there is no deductible and no co-payments. However, since I live out here, I can't get my university coverage. Instead I must shop around here for something comparable to my universities coverage. There is nothing comparable since every plan has copayments and deductibles. I don't think Fermilab cares a bit about solving this particular situation. The UEC put in a half-hearted solution of requiring grad students to have health insurance to get IDs. The lab agreed to this. Surprise!! Of course the lab wants grad students to have health insurance; it decreases the labís responsibility toward them. Does this help grad students get a good health insurance here? No!!! It just forces them to get some bad health insurance here or they won't be able to get an ID. What is needed is one of these options:

1) A doctor at Fermilab who can handle simple things like prescriptions for colds, whom grad students can go to rather than paying $100 for a doctor visit which we wouldn't have to pay at our home institution.

2) All grad students can get the same health plan as the foreign grad students who work for Fermilab. This plan is like a university plan.

3) A local university can "fill in the gaps" of our health plans here by giving walk-in service for simple problems and such and writing prescriptions.

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REMAINING QUESTIONS AND MISCELLANEOUS COMMENTS

 

7) A bicycle rental service/discount-purchasing offer for users on site only would be useful.

8) Extending the walking/bicycle path along Eola Road to DZero would make my commute safer.

12) The weekly seminars offered in Wilson Hall are of use to me.

13) Semester-long physics classes such as Accelerator Physics and Mathematical Physics have in the past been offered/supported by the GSA. I would be very interested in attending, participating, or lecturing if similar classes were to be organized in the future.

14) Those residing on the Fermilab site would really benefit from getting borrowing privileges for a local library.

 

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None of the issues in your survey would have much effect on my quality of life. The one single thing that would make the most difference to me would be for the cafeteria to remain open for dinner (and regular hours on weekends).

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Extending the driving road past DZero to Eola would make my commute 2 times faster.

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Fermilab really needs a car rental scheme similar to CERN vans. It would also be really nice to have some 'coffee' rooms so we can leave our desks to eat our packed lunches, have coffee breaks etc.

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While most of the items you list would be nice for some people, remember that in a time of tight funding extra benefits on site comes at the expense of the research program.

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==== First dramatic thing to do is to build safe bike/walking path from

==== Eola/Batavia crossroads to DZERO.

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The amount of time it takes to drive (from DZero) to Wilson Hall, find parking, drive back, find parking, does not make it worth it to go to seminars.

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The lectures offered are sometimes interesting but I think that some more general lectures for grad students starting in the field would be very useful. Most of the talks, at least just by looking at the titles, seem to be very specific to a certain field and therefore somewhat inaccessible to someone who isn't in that field. I haven't been to too many seminars so I might be wrong in this respect....

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Wilson Hall seminars - I find the extensive time associated with travelling from DZero to Wilson Hall, parking etc., to be too much overhead and thus almost never attend seminars. A scheduled taxi service might entice me to go more often.

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Please make bicyclists use the bike paths at all times! I hate it when they block the road when there is a path just for them. I have complained about this on two occasions already.

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We certainly need more parking (at D0 and WH) and an open Eola Rd gate. Those two things are my number 1 quality of life complaints. I'm sick of the continual waste of gasoline needed to circle the lab when there is a perfectly good road directly into D0, and the continual waste of time needed to hike from the back of DAB around to my office or from the Lederman center to WH.

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If I was seeking to improve the quality of life at D0, I would ask for more parking (it is always a crunch from 9:30-11:30 & 1-4 even worse for On Weeks), more meeting rooms and/or fewer meetings, better chairs in the meeting rooms, another set of bathrooms in DAB, more console space in the Control Room, better color printers (I can never get images to print well on transparencies), working telephones in the control room (portables are crap, half of the others go in and out with weak sound), and, finally, open the Eola Rd gate at Butterfield!