4-RIDE upgrades delayed further

The months-long lag to automate the 4-RIDE shuttle service will continue into the fall semester, a University official said Tuesday, as GW tests its fleet for kinks.

University officials introduced the program that will allow students to request a ride through an online portal and track the van slated to pick them up nearly a year ago. Senior Associate Vice President for Safety and Security Darrell Darnell previously projected the system would go live by the end of last spring, but that deadline is now being pushed to the fall.

University spokeswoman Jill Sankey said Tuesday that “early fall” is the most specific time frame administrators can offer for the launch.

Because the University never stamped an exact target date for completion of the project, officials do not consider the pushback a “delay,” Sankey said.

The University began flirting with the idea of modernizing 4-RIDE’s dispatch system to allow ride requests through a website or text message in October 2010, aiming to quell student complaints targeting the sluggish shuttle service. By late January, administrators were finalizing a $30,000 contract for GPS trackers to monitor vans and dispatch vehicles based on their locations.

The automated portal will allow students to both book rides and track the shuttle slated to pick them up through a real-time Google map, while also receiving text and e-mail notifications with the shuttle’s estimated arrival time – within 15 minutes, Darnell said. Riders can request trips up to two hours in advance.

“The whole purpose of this is we want to do a couple of things. One, we want to make the system more responsive to the students,” Darnell said. “We want to make sure that when they request a ride, they can get, as immediately as you possibly can, a response from our dispatchers.”

4-RIDE typically transports about 350 passengers on average weeknights and sees a slight boost to about 400 riders on weekend nights. It escorts students between 7 p.m. and 6:30 a.m.

Students will be able to access the 4-RIDE portal through the myGW and UPD websites.

Darnell said the automated system will also help the University track how many students use 4-RIDE to determine if the number of vehicles in the fleet should be expanded.

University Police Chief Kevin Hay said to avoid long waits, riders should ask themselves if they are requesting rides for their own security or just as a free cab service – which is not the intended purpose of the shuttle service.

“If the system is overwhelmed with riders, ask yourself, are they riding 4-RIDE because they want to feel secure or because they want a ride? We want to emphasize the fact that this is a way to provide a safe ride for people to get from A to B around campus,” Hay said.

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