In response to student criticism of The Ride, the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) recently began working with Public Safety (PSafe) to discuss redrawing the routes, providing contact information for transportation services to prevent conflict between students and drivers, and more clearly designating stops and schedules.
The WSA formulated their list of suggestions after Kara Ingraham ’11 brought up complaints about The Ride by forming a Facebook event entitled “The Ride: Something Needs to Change,” and holding a public forum on Nov. 19. The WSA’s Transportation Subcommittee Chair Benjamin Firke ’12 compiled the list of recommendations from Ingraham’s suggestions, as well as from WSA discussion.
“We were already thinking about The Ride, and as we were slowly developing a plan there was that huge outburst against The Ride online,” said WSA Vice President Becky Weiss ’10. “That was an impetus to try to move much more quickly.”
PSafe Director Dave Meyer, who oversees transportation, said that he is working with WSA members to finalize the list of recommendations before Winter Break. He hopes to implement any necessary changes at the start of next semester.
“As always, the system has been adjusted over the years to make it more efficient, but students need to have realistic expectations about how the service works,” Meyer said.
According to Meyer, The Ride is not intended to be a door-to-door service that accepts phone calls, but rather a shuttle that stops at select locations around campus.
The Ride driver Bob Tringali has lived in Middletown his whole life and has worked for four years as a Ride driver. He stated that he has not heard anything about the joint PSafe and WSA effort to change ride
“On less busy nights we have a few regulars, and we’ll drop them off at their houses and make sure they get inside okay because it’s dark. It’s both a shuttle and an escort service.”
Tringali admitted that traffic on weekends gets hectic.
“On weekend nights sometimes the demand gets to be overwhelming,” he said.
Firke said that in order to increase The Ride’s effectiveness as a shuttle service, plans have been made to create signs that are more visible in the dark, ensure that stops are located in well-lit areas, and potentially change the transfer station from its current location in front of SciLi to Usdan.
“We want the student body to know the schedule, to know the stops, and to make good, informed decisions about how we can plan ahead for the ride,” Firke said. “It can work more as a bus system.”
Three weeks ago, The Ride’s phone number was inactive for the weekend, as a result of complications that arose from a shift to 10-digit dialing in many areas of Connecticut. While PSafe rectified the problem on Monday morning, it elicited complaints from many students who prefer to call The Ride rather than waiting at stops.
“Our system can’t accommodate phone calls as frequently as it does,” Weiss said. “If people went to the stops, it would make things a lot easier and more efficient.”
Ingraham’s Facebook event led to a series of unconfirmed student accusations about rudeness from The Ride drivers. In response, Firke and Weiss have suggested that each van include an identification plaque for the driver, as well as the phone number for transportation services.
“Sometimes students are intoxicated and rude, but at the same time, no matter how intoxicated a student is, certain racially and sexually offensive remarks [by The Ride drivers] are never tolerated,” Weiss said.
However, Meyer suggested that student attitudes toward ride drivers are not always exemplary.
“We talked a lot about abuses by the students,” Meyer said. “We have to realize with some of the complaints about rudeness that it goes both ways.”
There are also plans to introduce a mediator between drivers and students.
“Provided we find the requisite funds there will be a student dispatcher,” said Firke.
The dispatcher, who would be a student employee, would take calls from students and alert the appropriate van. Currently, calls are handled by one of the drivers.
Firke and Weiss plan to continue researching the issue and to meet with The Ride drivers to survey the campus at night to evaluate current stops.
“I really want to see results soon,” Firke said. “This isn’t an issue that will just slide away, and right now, we consider it one of our top policy priorities.”