Students will have access to a slew of new transportation options this academic year, including discounted car and bikeshare memberships and updated campus shuttle systems.
Transportation officials worked at the end of the spring semester and this summer to rebrand the 4-RIDE service, upgrade an app that tracks campus transportation options and offer an annual discounted Capital Bikeshare membership for students. Officials said the changes reflect conversations held between student leaders, who highlighted a need for safer and more accessible transportation options in and around campus.
“We’re trying to provide as many opportunities for students to get around D.C. and then also to have opportunities for those students who are uncomfortable walking alone at night and want a safe ride around our campus,” Karen Zinn, the executive director of business and auxiliary services, said.
Upgraded ‘Safe Ride’ service
Alicia Knight, the senior associate vice president for operations, said the University replaced the previous 4-RIDE vans with a new fleet of cars now branded “Safe Ride.” Knight said the buff, blue and white painted onto the new vehicles mirrors the recently upgraded Vern Express exterior and is designed to help the cars stand out to students looking for their ride.
She said officials decided to revamp the program after receiving feedback from students and drivers about long wait times. The Hatchet reported in November that students often complained about long wait times and unfriendly drivers when using the service.
Knight said GW originally named 4-RIDE for the number someone would dial to call one of the service’s cars. She said students can now request a Safe Ride using an app that allows students to enter their location in a style similar to ride-sharing apps like Uber or Lyft.
John Ralls, the communications and outreach director for the Division of Operations, said officials will gather feedback about the Safe Ride program from students. The University will ask students to evaluate the service, similar to the “secret shoppers” recruited to report feedback on the Vex, he said.
Zinn, the executive director of business and auxiliary services, said the transportation team garnered feedback this summer through conversations with the Residence Hall Association and Student Association leadership, student forums and focus groups. She said students can continue to submit feedback about the new system through the tracking app.
GW Rider App
The GW Rider mobile application, which allows students to view the frequency and location of the Vex and Virginia Science and Technology Campus shuttles and track Safe Ride trips, is now available to students, officials announced Friday.
Knight, the senior associate vice president for operations, said a previous version of the application provided a schedule for the Vex, VSTC shuttle and Safe Ride run times, but the new app tracks each vehicle’s location.
“This will be seamless to students,” Knight said.
Zinn, the executive director of business and auxiliary services, said the transportation team also solicited feedback from 4-RIDE drivers when designing the new ride-hailing system.
“They’re really the first line of communication with the students who are using the service, so a lot of their feedback was instrumental,” Zinn said.
Annual student memberships
The University partnered with the District Department of Transportation to offer a discounted Capital Bikeshare membership for students, DDOT announced Wednesday. Students can also sign up for a free car2go membership and receive a $10 credit after taking their first ride.
Students can sign up for the $25 membership online using a discount code unique to GW, according to a release last week from DDOT. An annual Capital Bikeshare membership typically costs $85, according to the Capital Bikeshare website.
James Harnett, a senior and an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner, said he proposed the idea for a discounted student pass to DDOT officials at a meeting with other commissioners in March.
“It certainly should be something that’s available for students and people who are limited by resources and don’t have access to equitable transportation options to get around the District or get to work, to internships,” he said.
Harnett said DDOT plans to add a new Capital Bikeshare station on 21st and G streets in November, which will provide more bikes for students to drive on and to campus. There are currently three Capital Bikeshare stations located on campus.
“I view this as the first step in a long conversation and process we’re going to have to engage with to really open up the transportation options for students,” Harnett said.
This article appeared in the August 26, 2019 issue of the Hatchet.