University Police officials said they are better equipped to handle 4-RIDE passengers this year, with the addition of four vehicles, six drivers and a more advanced phone answering system.
The University gave UPD a $180,000 budget increase for 4-RIDE this year, in response to a record number of passengers that used the service last year, said UPD Chief Dolores Stafford. Last fiscal year, which ended in June, 4-RIDE escorted 101,124 students, a 37 percent increase from the previous year.
UPD introduced a computerized phone system this year, which answers calls in the order they are placed. Previously, a 4-RIDE operator would juggle five separate phone lines, often leaving many calls unanswered.
Stafford said she hopes to reduce wait times at peak hours – Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights – from the current 25 minutes to 20 minutes.
In order to free up 4-RIDE vans, students are urged to take the Colonial Express shuttle, which makes stops at various places on campus. The shuttle added a northern route, which makes stops at the Marvin Center, the Aston, Pennsylvania House and City and New halls, this semester.
4-RIDE, which started in 1994 with one van and driver, now boasts a fleet of 14 vehicles and a full-time staff of 20 people.
Larry Battle, a 4-RIDE driver, said wait times have dropped significantly this year.
“The feedback I have heard from students so far has been positive,” he said. “There has been a vast improvement.”
Some students said wait times have decreased significantly since last semester.
“The service has gotten a lot better compared to my freshman year,” senior Mike Jackson said.
Others said 4-RIDE needs to improve its phone system.
“You have to wait about 10 minutes just to talk to someone, and then you have to wait again for the shuttle to arrive,” freshman Ryan Brier said.
Stafford said some students have made the mistake of hanging up after not reaching an operator, only to call back again and return to the end of the queue.
“They’re trying to use the system in the same way they used to…and they don’t realize that when they hang up, they go to the back of the line,” Stafford said.
“If there are 30 calls on the line, which is not odd when it rains, we answer the calls in turn,” she added.
In addition to increasing 4-RIDE’s budget, GW has made the Mount Vernon shuttle a 24-hour service. The shuttles will also drop students off at the corner of 19th and E streets and 22nd and G streets upon request.
The service has one bus departing every 40 minutes between 12 a.m. and 6 a.m.
Stafford said the increased hours was a direct response to surveys that found students wanted a 24-hour shuttle service.
-Michael Barnett contributed to this report.