Increased demand and long wait times led University Police to request additional funding for the 4-RIDE escort service, which has seen a 54 percent increase in student use this year.
UPD Chief Dolores Stafford said she cannot attribute the increase to a specific cause but said it is not a “fluke.” She said UPD will evaluate 4-RIDE to determine where additional funds would be most effective in meeting students’ needs.
“We need to look at staffing, and what we can do to the best of our ability to keep up with the increase in usage,” Stafford said. ” Right now, we’re dealing with students’ requests as fast as we can.”
Stafford said she does not think the service will be “cut down” if additional funding is not provided, but more money is needed to maintain an efficient level of service. The 4-RIDE budget is currently about $500,000 per year.
UPD used money from the department’s general budget to hire three part-time drivers to drive during peak times because the 4-RIDE budget was exhausted, Stafford said. Drivers work eight-hour shifts. .
Stafford said students should expect an average waiting time of 20 to 30 minutes for the service, and that they may spend up to 10 minutes trying to reach a 4-RIDE operator.
“4-RIDE is definitely a good service, but it’s very unreliable,” freshman Mary Ann Knot-Craig said. “You never know when they’re going to come. The wait time could be anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes.”
The escort service currently has one operator handling five phone lines. If 4-RIDE receives more funds, UPD would look into hiring more operators and adding more phone lines, Stafford said.
Longer wait times have led some to question the service’s ability to boost campus safety.
“4-RIDE would help campus safety if it was more efficient in picking up people,” freshman Rosemary Englert said. “I’ve had to walk around campus some nights, and I’m always afraid of getting mugged or something.”
Last week, a female student was robbed while walking along 21st Street. She said she did not call 4-RIDE because she thought the service would be too busy to accommodate her.
“The other night I had to get a taxi because 4-RIDE was too busy,” said the student, who wished to remain anonymous, in a Jan. 27 Hatchet article. “Every time I tried to call this week, the line was busy.”
Stafford said there are many people who walk around campus safely at night, and those that want to use 4-RIDE will have to “be patient.” She also urged students to take the Colonial Express Shuttle, which stops at Thurston Hall, the Hall on Virginia Avenue, Columbia Plaza, Gelman Library and the Marvin Center.
Drivers have also voiced the need for more 4-RIDE drivers and vans.
“There should be more vehicles to accommodate students, especially during the busiest times, like on the weekend,” said a 4-RIDE driver who wished to remain anonymous. ” There are definitely more students using (4-RIDE) this year than last year.”
Senior Gretchen Briggs said she walked to the Letterman House at 21st and F streets from Aston Hall at 3 a.m. one night after waiting for 4-RIDE for over an hour.
“It was just ridiculous,” Briggs said. “(The dispatcher) told me that a van was on its way, but it never came. I just decided to walk.”
The service carries its passengers anywhere on or within three blocks of campus and operates between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. everyday.