The University advertises 4-RIDE as a “student safe ride service,” but dozens of students say the service is unreliable and they are better off walking home.
4-RIDE, a free transportation service for students on and around the Foggy Bottom Campus, began in 1994 as a safety measure for students traversing campus between 8 p.m. and 4 a.m. In interviews with 31 students who said they experienced issues with 4-RIDE this semester, 21 said they are discontent with the service’s long wait times, no-show rides and allegedly unwelcoming drivers, and 12 said they would not use the service again if it was not an emergency.
University spokeswoman Maralee Csellar said students “occasionally” voice concerns about wait times during peak periods – like weekends or during inclement weather – but the University attempts to modify service availability accordingly by scheduling more vans during busy times. She declined to provide the exact number of vans in operation throughout the week.
Csellar said students seeking transport for “convenience” should use local services, like taxi cabs or ride-sharing services, to ensure 4-RIDE services are readily available for students who are not comfortable walking alone.
“The University continues to make enhancements to the 4-RIDE program to ensure that its operation is most efficient for students in need of safe escort and regularly assesses its performance to ensure program optimization,” she said.
Csellar said 4-RIDE transports are available based on student demand and University resources. Response times for the thousands of rides taken each semester vary, but drivers typically respond in the approximated 10-minute timeframe, she said.
But in interviews, students said 4-RIDE drivers have watched TV while driving, smoked next to 4-RIDE vehicles on campus, picked riders up without verifying the name on the reservation, gotten lost and given rides to bypassing students without a reservation. Five riders reported inconsistent wait times because of miscommunication between online and call reservations.
One sophomore said she filed a Title IX complaint with the University last week against a 4-RIDE driver after he sent her personalized messages that raised “red flags” after she used the service over the summer.
The student, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing Title IX investigation, said the driver emailed her personally in June after she used the service and told her she could contact him directly if she couldn’t get through to a dispatcher or waited too long for a ride. The driver also sent her an unsolicited Facebook message with a similar statement three weeks ago, she said, which prompted her to file the complaint.
“I don’t want to call the service,” she said. “It’s been cold at night, and I’ve had to walk across campus and I don’t feel comfortable calling it because there’s a chance of that same 4-RIDE driver who feels comfortable enough to find my information and knows my face.”
Some students said 4-RIDE drivers’ allegedly negative attitudes during pick-up were upsetting and discouraged them from using 4-RIDE in the future.
Sophia Umansky, a freshman studying business, said she ordered a 4-RIDE from CVS at 3 a.m. to her residence hall two weeks ago after hearing of an attempted robbery at the pharmacy earlier that week but received a “pretty rude” response when she tried to confirm the driver was there to pick her up. Umansky said her driver sarcastically pointed out that if the car had a 4-RIDE label then it was her ride, which made her feel unwelcome.
“It was helpful, but the driver should be a little bit nicer and more welcoming because people use it when they are scared,” Umansky said. “When the drivers are just as mean and scary as the people you are scared of, it’s scary.”
Other students said 4-RIDE’s long wait times have prompted them to walk home instead, and 11 students said they were never even picked up after requesting a ride.
Deena Husami, a freshman who uses the 4-RIDE service multiple times a week after studying late at night, said she often waits more than 15 minutes for a van to pick her up.
Husami said she has often decided to walk home by herself because of the long wait times, and although nothing bad has happened to her, frequent text alerts and emails from the GW Police Department about incidents like assaults and harassment on campus prove something could happen.
“Sometimes they don’t show up, and so then I decide to walk,” Husami said. “Other times I’ll call them and then the operator will say there’s three people ahead of me waiting for the call, and I’ll wait a little bit, but if it’s been more than five minutes and I’m just waiting on hold, I’ll just decide to walk.”
Freshman Giavanna Corazza said she uses 4-RIDE every day to return to Thurston Hall from her late-night lab, but she said ordering 4-RIDE through a call is unreliable because the wait time for just requesting a ride online is more than 10 minutes.
Corazza added that 4-RIDE doesn’t confirm the time of arrival to the location.
She said the University advertised the service at the beginning of the academic year as an option to get free and secure rides around campus, but long wait times outside late at night mitigate the positive nature of the service.
“The thing that worries me most about it is that they advertise it at the beginning of the year – saying that it is really good for the safety of the campus if you ever feel unsafe or you really need some sort of way home that they will be there within minutes – but they don’t even answer you within minutes,” Corazza said.
Grace Gruber, a freshman in the School of Business said when she ordered a 4-RIDE three weeks ago to bring her roommate to the emergency room with an eye infection, the car never showed up. Gruber said they waited for the ride, but the situation progressively worsened so they had to walk to the GW Hospital.
“I’d rather pay the money and Uber because I know it is reliable and I know I can track it from point A to point B without any issues,” Gruber said.