GW has some new additions to its 4-RIDE fleet: massive 15-passenger vans to help the security escort service meet the demand for students heading off campus.
The vans were purchased this year after the number of students requesting rides increased 4 percent, with a total of 130,000 riders in 2013.
“The drivers had mentioned that it would be helpful if we would get some bigger vans because they would get big parties of students that wanted to go to certain locations near M Street,” University Police Chief Kevin Hay said in an interview last month.
Though the top three locations for 4Ride pick-ups and drop-offs are Gelman Library, Thurston Hall and South Hall, the service will also take students to dozens of locations off campus, including popular bars like Sign of the Whale and McFadden’s.
About one-third of 4-RIDE requests are for groups of more than seven people, University spokesman Dave Andrews said. The 4-Ride shuttles transport about 400 people on an average weekend night.
Junior Vanessa Morales said she uses 4-RIDE instead of a cab “because it’s free.”
“I love 4-RIDE because when I’m trying to get to Sign of the Whale and it’s below freezing, they know how to hook me up,” Morales said. “I pretty much use 4-RIDE for places that would otherwise take me more than five minutes to walk to.”
Andrews declined to provide the cost of purchasing the bigger vehicles. In August, Executive Vice President and Treasurer Lou Katz said multi-million dollar programs like 4-RIDE are an example of students’ high expectations for support programs.
“The students do want more, and it’s expensive,” Katz said then.
The 4-RIDE service will likely come under scrutiny during this year’s Student Association election, after junior and presidential candidate Daniel Egel-Weiss said the system should prioritize passengers travelling alone or in small groups.
Former presidential candidate John Bennett also focused on reforming 4-Ride during his campaign in 2012, with concerns that the system did not distinguish between students who felt unsafe and those who wanted to go to clubs off campus.
Though GW’s chief security officer Darrell Darnell said then that Bennett’s plan was “a good idea,” he said it was unlikely to be smoothly implemented.
Colleen Murphy contributed reporting.