University Police Department officials said they are attempting to cope with record 4-RIDE use, as more than 9,000 students used the University escort service in September, the highest monthly volume in 4-RIDE history.
The number represents a significant increase from last September, when 6,500 people used 4-RIDE, according to UPD statistics released last week.
UPD Chief Dolores Stafford said she cannot attribute the increase to a specific cause. She said UPD will be looking at usage in the upcoming months to determine whether or not more 4-RIDE vehicles and drivers are needed.
“We’ll be looking at upcoming months to see if there has been a steady increase in usage,” Stafford said.
She said if the increase continues UPD will ask GW for additional funds to buy more vans.
The 4-RIDE budget, included in UPD’s budget, is about $500,000 per year, Stafford said.
When it began in 1994, the 4-RIDE escort service had one car and one driver. Now 4-RIDE has eight vehicles and a full-time staff of 14. From July 1, 2001 to June 30, 2002, 4-RIDE escorted more than 73,000 people, according to UPD statistics.
The service carries its passengers to any destination on or within three blocks of the Foggy Bottom campus. The service operates between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. every day.
Both students and 4-RIDE drivers have voiced the need for more vehicles, citing long waits due to greater demand.
“For the weekends, we need more buses. There are just too many people requesting our services,” said a 4-Ride driver who called herself Maria.
S tudents agreed the service is not keeping pace with its demand.
“4-RIDE is very reliable duriing the week; it usually comes 10 minutes after I call it,” freshman SuMing Briskin said. But on weekends “I have to wait an incredibly long time,” she said.
Stafford said the average wait is 15- 25 minutes, adding that during busy times it can be up to 40. Other students were dissatisfied because of the lack of space in vans.
“I’ve been waiting for 40 minutes for 4-RIDE to come,” freshman Zach Cypress said. “Now I might have to walk to the Statesman because there’s no room.”
The Student Association is conducting a survey of students analyzing 4-RIDE service, said Dani Greenspan, SA vice president for undergraduate affairs.
“Basically, we have heard a lot of complaints and are looking to see whether 4-RIDE service is meeting student needs,” said Greenspan, who is heading up the survey.
He said students can pick up surveys in the SA office or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Students offered different reasons why they use 4-RIDE.
“I take 4-RIDE everywhere – I love it,” sophomore Amanda Kissel said. “I take it to the gym, I take it to Safeway and I take it to classes.”
“I’m scared to walk alone at night, so 4-RIDE allows me to do the things I want to do without worrying about being robbed or something,” junior Allie Simon said.
The majority of 4-RIDE passengers are female, Stafford said. But she noted the percentage of male passengers has increased.
“It used to be that 10 percent of the passengers were male,” she said. “Now about 30 to 40 percent of the passengers are male.”
UPD officials said they are not concerned about why students are using 4-RIDE but are pleased students use it.
“It could be for convenience, it could be for safety, but the fact that students are using the service means that 4-RIDE is effective,” Stafford said.
-Mosheh Oinounou contributed to this report.