Wednesday, June 26

Scott Bays: CSO van service can increase publicity through direct link on MyUCLA

The Undergraduate Students Association Council Facilities Commission released an app in April to help students use the Community Service Officer Evening Van Service. The vans drop off students at destinations on campus or in Westwood. (Daily Bruin file photo)

The Undergraduate Students Association Council Facilities Commission released an app in April to help students use the Community Service Officer Evening Van Service. The vans drop off students at destinations on campus or in Westwood. (Daily Bruin file photo)

UCLA students have “a safe means of transportation around campus during the evening hours.” They probably don’t know about it, though.

The Community Service Officer Evening Van Service is a free ride service that provides UCLA students a safe way to get to the Hill and Westwood apartments between 6 and 11 p.m. Students just have to call for a van and wait at one of the 21 designated pick-up spots located across campus and Westwood so they can be dropped off at their destination.

Unfortunately, the service is barely advertised, leaving potential riders traversing the neighborhood at night to their own devices, which can be a safety risk.

This is a shame because the van service could be a valuable resource for students. To raise awareness about the evening vans, UCLA Transportation needs to advertise the service at the one place every student visits: MyUCLA.

Undergraduate Students Association Council Facilities Commissioner Zahra Hajee said the only time students are formally told about the service is during a campus safety segment given by university police during New Student Orientation. However, incoming first-year students take in so much information during New Student Orientation that it’s unreasonable to expect most students to remember.

Hajee said resident assistants sometimes promote the service to their residents, but it’s difficult to determine how effective that outreach is when not every student regularly interacts with their RAs.

To make this entire investment worthwhile – we spend tuition dollars on the service, after all – the USAC Facilities Commission must work to inform students about the service. Making the resource easily discoverable on MyUCLA is a good start.

Currently, to find information about the evening van on MyUCLA, a student must click on “Student Life,” find the link to UCPD located beneath “Health and Safety,” click on “Services” on the UCPD website, select the link titled “Community Service Officers” and then scroll down on that page to find the link “Evening Van Service.”

In other words, the service is barely visible online.

Instead of burying the CSO Evening Van Service down a rabbit hole of links, the Facilities Commission should expedite the process by providing the link directly under the MyUCLA “Campus Life” label. Doing this would increase the likelihood of students finding out about the Evening Van Service.

Better publicity is also essential to making the Facilities Commission’s additions to the service worth its time.

The commission rolled out an app called TapRide earlier this year for a trial run that will last until June 16. TapRide allows students to select their pick-up and drop-off locations while alerting van drivers that a student wants to be picked up. This is a great idea, but the top priority should be making students aware that the CSO Evening Van Service exists in the first place. Minor improvements such as TapRide are useless if no one is even aware of the van service.

Moreover, if students were to somehow stumble across the Evening Van Service web page, they would not find a single mention of TapRide, even though it is open for UCLA students to use. Just like the van service itself, a useful idea is not publicized well enough. And students are losing out as a result.

Some may say that making the van service more visible on MyUCLA won’t make much of a difference, but doing so could only help students learn about the resources available to them. Most students use MyUCLA multiple times a week, perusing the listed links to find any resources they might need. By including a direct link to the Evening Van Service, students would become aware of its existence. And such a move would not expend any university resources. The website already exists and can be unearthed on MyUCLA if one digs deep enough. Placing the link directly under the features of MyUCLA is a simple and pragmatic solution.

And certainly, UCLA Transportation has been trying to increase the visibility of the van service by adding labels identifying the evening vans. But while this is a step in the right direction, it’s not nearly enough to get enough students to regularly use the service.

Making students more aware of the services available to them would better justify their existence. The cost of the vans is fixed regardless of the amount of students that use them because they run continuously whether the van is empty or full.

By better promoting the Evening Van Service, more students will become riders and get more bang for their buck.

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Opinion columnist

Bays is an Opinion columnist.

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