The Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) has implemented the first phase of changes to The Ride service, including the permanent addition of an extra van on the three of the busiest nights of the week and stricter guidelines for adhering to scheduled routes. Plans are also underway for modifications to the routes, the installation of a GPS tracking system that allows students to chart the vans’ locations, and the hiring of a student dispatcher.

The WSA proposed the changes in response to student criticism about inconsistencies with The Ride at the end of last semester.

The third van, which was added this semester, runs on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights, which are the evenings when students most frequently use The Ride, according to Transportation Subcommittee Committee Chair Ben Firke ’12. Unlike the other two vans, the additional van is not meant to adhere to either the red or the blue line, but is intended to accept calls from students, fill in when a van reaches capacity, and accommodate Wednesday bar night traffic to Main St.

Firke said that the new system is designed to function on a strictly scheduled route, rather than rely on individual calls from students.

“[The Ride is] still accepting phone calls, but you’re encouraged to call in during extenuating circumstances,” Firke said. “Like if The Ride’s not there, or if it’s raining, or if you’re waiting by the stop and you just want to let the ride driver know you’re there.”

Within the next two weeks, Information Technology Services and the Transportation Department are scheduled to install a GPS tracking system, which will allow students to check the vans’ locations online rather than calling. Additionally, Firke and Director of Public Safety Dave Meyer are currently in the process of setting up the funding for a student dispatcher whose job it would be to facilitate communication between students and drivers, who previously had to answer calls en route.

The WSA also plans to use the GPS data to determine which stops are the most frequented and improve the routes of the vans accordingly. The changes to the routes will be finalized by Spring Break, at which point the WSA will look into relocating the transfer stop, where the two lines cross, from its current location at Exley to a more central spot on campus.

“We did a preliminary redrawing of the routes based on WSA input, but we want to check that against statistics about which stops are the most frequented,” Firke said. “We want our decision to reflect the habits of students who take The Ride.”

Meyer said he sees The Ride as an issue of student safety and that improving it is a continuing joint effort between Public Safety and the WSA.

“It’s a process where we see what works and what doesn’t work and we make adjustments accordingly,” Meyer said. “I’m not going to say it’s going to be perfect, but I think the WSA has been very good about identifying the issues and working to fix them.”

Firke agreed that cooperation between the WSA and Public Safety was essential to making successful changes.

“This was a difficult process, and Dave Meyer’s openness and assistance were crucial and much appreciated by the students involved in the process,” he said.

So far, Firke said that he has received positive feedback about the changes from students, but that there will likely be more adjustments to make in the future.

“We’ve already heard a lot of things from people about how service has improved, especially on the weekends and bar night because adding the third driver has been huge,” Firke said. “The Ride has really come a long way in a short period of time, but if there is anything that still isn’t working right or that could be improved, don’t hesitate to let us know.”

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