University Police officials will not request a funding increase for 4-RIDE because of a decrease in service use.
The decision not to seek an increase for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, was based on “flat numbers,” UPD Chief Dolores Stafford said.
Stafford said that 4-RIDE use has fallen by 1,000 to 2,000 riders each month this year. She said she estimates that about 72,000 passengers will have utilized the service by the end of the year. The escort vans transported 80,700 students in Foggy Bottom last year – a record high.
Stafford said service use varies, and students may have preferred walking this year.
“The scenario of a projected 10 to 15 percent decrease did not justify adding funds, especially in a year where the University has to make budget cuts,” said Stafford, who noted that UPD would not reduce funding for the program next year.
Stafford said she would look to reallocate 4-RIDE’s resources to enhance the service for next year.
“Our main goal is to keep the numbers fairly stable. and to quicken telephone services during our peak hours of 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.,” Stafford said.
The service, which runs between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. every day, received $181,000 in additional funding last year, which brought its yearly budget to $681,000. The funding increase allowed UPD to purchase four new vans and hire six drivers and a transportation coordinator.
The program also instituted a new call center in which escort requests are answered in the order they are placed.
Next year will mark the first time in three years that 4-RIDE has not received a budget increase.
“The service is not as good as it can be, but I feel good about where we are now. This is the best escort service staff in terms of quality of service,” Stafford said.
Many students cited the long wait times to place a request as an area that needs to be improved.
“They have taken so long to answer, I waited for over 40 minutes one time, and my cell phone ended up dying. It is such a waste of cell phone minutes,” freshman Erin March said.
“It is not worth the wait. I find the service unreliable and unpredictable. They need to do some major reorganization,” junior Jackie Andes said.
Stafford said the unpredictable nature of peak call periods poses difficulties in reducing wait time.
“We may never be able to fix the long wait times when experiencing heavy usage,” Stafford said. “Because the times are not predictable, it is difficult to target the specific resources needed to fully correct it.”
Some students said they have been pleased with the service this year, but noted that 4-RIDE needs to revamp its call center.
“The wait time has been long, but overall they seem more organized this year. If they could get the call waiting time down, students would be a lot happier,” senior Ashley Donovan said.
Stafford said surveys will be distributed to students in the next few weeks to evaluate UPD transportation services.