WEB EXCLUSIVE: Students laud 4-RIDE, cite some faults

GW students said they prefer GW’s 4-RIDE escort service to student transportation provided by other area universities because 4-RIDE emphasizes safety and convenience, despite occasional long waits and indirect service to destinations.

The 4-RIDE service, which is run by the University Police Department, transports students to and from any on-campus buildings in vans at night and in the early morning. Georgetown and American universities use shuttle buses, following a regular schedule of stops throughout the day.

4-RIDE and GW’s Colonial Express are designed for safety purposes, UPD Director Dolores Stafford said. Other D.C. universities emphasize convenience and transportation aspects, Stafford said.

GW students can call the number 4-RIDE from any on-campus phone and an escort van will pick them up. Operating from 7 p.m. and 6 a.m., the program aims to provide a safe mode of transportation for students.

Georgetown’s shuttle system, called GUTS, runs between 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. and takes students to the Rosslyn and Dupont Circle Metro stations. GUTS does not service areas on campus, according to the GUTS Web site.

American’s shuttle, which operates between 7 a.m. and 12:30 a.m. on the weekdays and between 8 a.m. and 1 a.m. on the weekends, takes students to and from the Tenleytown Metro station.

Nick Calkins, transportation coordinator at American, said the school’s shuttle system is designed to handle a large number of students.

With the volume of people that we serve we thought that it would be more efficient to have specified locations for pick up, more like a Metrobus system, he said.

Calkins said student response to this form of shuttle transportation has been positive.

It makes it easier for students to plan their day if it is set in stone that there will be a shuttle every 15 minutes, he said. It’s less stressful for the students and provides a sense of security.

Shuttles at American serve a different purpose than GW’s system, Calkins said.

Safety is a nice side effect but the main purpose of the shuttle system is convenience, Calkins said.

The intent of GW’s escort service is to enhance safety and peace of mind for the members of the GW community, according to UPD’s Web site.

It is really comforting as a woman to know that (4-RIDE) is there, sophomore Annie O’Neill said. It’s here to protect us.

O’Neill said the added safety makes up for the extra time it takes waiting for a 4-RIDE van.

The call-in service may take longer, but if we had to meet at a spot on campus we would still have to walk from that stop to the dorms, O’Neill said It’s not as safe as door to door service.

Freshman Kate Powers said she feels safer on campus knowing that 4-RIDE is an option for students, but said she thinks the system needs improvement.

It would be better if there were more drivers so that it could get around quicker, she said.

Since UPD began the 4-RIDE escort van service in 1994 with one van, the service has expanded to include seven vans and seven drivers, Stafford said. In 1997, the Colonial Express shuttle was established at popular escort spots on campus to alleviate pressure on the van service, Stafford said.

Although 4-RIDE provides a safer way for students to travel on campus, many said they had experienced delays with the service.

One time I had to wait at Gelman Library for 15 minutes before the shuttle arrived, and then it took 20 minutes just to get to Thurston Hall because we had to stop at five different locations, Powers said.

Freshman Delal Cerimli experienced similar difficulties.

Normally it takes me 15 minutes to walk from Mitchell Hall to the Marvin Center, but with 4-RIDE it took about 20 minutes just to get picked up. Cerimli said.

Stafford said she has received fewer complaints about the escort service this year than in previous years because UPD added three more drivers and a telephone operator who tells students the estimated wait time when they call.

There are going to be instances that students wait longer than others, Stafford said. Long waits for 4-RIDE service can be directly linked to heavy call volume of riders, Stafford said.

Stafford said the busiest nights for shuttles are Sunday through Thursday.

UPD escorted more than 30,000 people during the 1999-2000 school year, she said.

Despite the delays, students said they had positive experiences with the 4-RIDE service.

I was at my roommate’s concert at 24th and Virginia Avenue, said freshman Erin Lahey. When the concert finished it was about 10 (p.m.), so I called 4-RIDE on my cell phone and they were there within 5 minutes.

The Colonial Express Shuttle makes stops at several locations on campus. The shuttle meets at locations such as the Marvin Center, Thurston Hall, The Aston and Gelman Library, according to the UPD Web site. The shuttle operates from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. and picks up people every 40 minutes, according the Web site.

Junior Jake Artz said that although he usually walks everywhere, when it is late at night he prefers to take 4-RIDE instead of the Colonial Shuttle.

Comparing 4-RIDE to the Colonial Shuttle is like comparing a taxi to the Metrobus, Artz said. 4-RIDE is more direct and convenient, while with the Colonial Shuttle you have to stop and many different places before you get to your destination.

-Tim Donnelly contributed to this report.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.