CSO Evening Van Service may pick up a mobile app for efficiency
By Jacob Preal
Oct. 27, 2016 9:18 p.m.
Students are dissatisfied with the campus van service that picks students up in the evening, according to a survey administered by undergraduate student leaders.
The USAC Facilities Commission gathered testimony from students who used the Community Service Officer Evening Van Service over the past two weeks and shared their findings at a meeting Thursday. The commission will use the responses to restructure the service based on student preferences.
Sandra Rhee, USAC facilities commissioner, said the testimonies indicated students were dissatisfied with long wait times for the van pickup service. Students also said the vans are sometimes full when they arrive at their stop and requested that the service extend its hours.
Rhee said the commission will look at potential operation costs for the implementation of a mobile app for the service next week.
Rhee is working with CSO administrators to integrate TapRide with the evening van service. TapRide is a phone application that allows people to request a ride and track nearby drivers. Students will be able to log into the application with their UCLA accounts, she said.
The CSO Evening Van Service makes stops at three on-campus locations and two Westwood locations every 15 to 20 minutes from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m., Monday through Thursday.
If TapRide is integrated with the service, students would be able to request pickup from wherever they are on campus. The app will provide more efficient means of communicating with drivers, Rhee said.
Zahra Hajee, director of safety for the commission, said she thinks a mobile app will make the van service safer by allowing students to look up the location of the vans, rather than wait alone at night.
If students express interest in the project, CSO administrators will divert funds from its escort service to pay for a $42,000 contract with DoubleMap, the company that owns TapRide, Rhee said. The escort service, which costs about $100,000 per year to operate, allows students to call community service officers to walk them home in the evening. But only about 10 students call the service per month, Rhee said.
Rhee added that these reallocated funds will be able to pay for 60 to 70 percent of the project, which includes the leasing of vehicles, staffing and app service fees.
Two University of California campuses already use TapRide, Rhee said. Both UC Davis and UC San Diego have access to the app for rides around campus. UC Santa Cruz will also enter into a contract with DoubleMap.
Students said they think the app would make accessing the escort vans more efficient.
Brenda Rubio, a third-year Chicana/o studies student, said she thinks an app would be useful for letting van drivers know that a pickup spot has a heavy volume of students waiting for a ride.
“The same number (used for the vans) is used for emergencies, so an app can clear up the line,” said Evelyn Villegas, a third-year psychology student.
She said she hopes the app would be safer for students.
Irma Silva, a fourth-year political science student, said she would frequently use the app because she lives south of Wilshire Boulevard.
“It would make my life easier knowing when a van is coming,” Silva said.
Rhee said the evening van service does not need to use TapRide specifically and can instead use a different app as long as it provides consistent information to students.
“Whatever gets student needs addressed, we will support,” she said.