Closer Look

Amid Safety Concerns, Students Say 8-RIDE Vans Have Abandoned Them

Ellen Bauch | The Phoenix8-RIDE vans operate within several blocks north, south and west of the Lake Shore Campus. Students use them to safely get to and from campus and to off-campus apartments. But some said the vans have forgotten them completely.

It turns out long wait times aren’t the worst thing that can happen to students looking to get a lift from Loyola’s 8-RIDE van service. Some students said the vans have forgotten them entirely, leaving them to find other ways home. Loyola’s Campus Transportation office blamed the problem on one possibility: a software glitch.

“They essentially have been abandoning students,” junior Allison Masciopinto said. “Without any explanation of where they are.”

Masciopinto said her friend and she were abandoned by an 8-RIDE two weeks ago.

The 20-year-old student was finishing up a weeknight dance practice with her sorority sisters in Mertz Residence Hall when she and a friend dialed up an 8-RIDE to get home. Masciopinto lives in an off-campus apartment and said she didn’t want to walk home at 11 p.m. She said two back-to-back murders in Rogers Park, which had occurred days before, weighed heavy on her mind.

They waited and waited for their van. Soon enough, 40 minutes had passed. Masciopinto’s friend called 8-RIDE back to make sure they’d booked it correctly. The dispatcher assured them they had and added they’d be picked up next.

Still, midnight came and went, and the girls hadn’t heard from their van. They opted for an Uber, and never heard back from 8-RIDE.

“We would’ve been there forever because they never called,” the health systems management major said. “It’s dangerous to leave students in that situation especially that late at night.”

Masciopinto’s experience isn’t unique or new.

The free ride share service is used by Loyola students to travel safely from place to place late at night. However, 8-RIDE has been losing some student calls in its system entirely, forcing them to instead walk home or pay for a ride from Uber or Lyft.

8-RIDE operates up to eight vans nightly which can each carry up to 11 students to and from destinations across Lake Shore Campus and the surrounding neighborhood. Students can call a phone number to schedule a ride or use the service’s mobile app.

Like Loyola’s intercampus shuttle buses, the vans are operated by a third-party company contracted by Loyola called MV Transportation.

MV Transportation couldn’t be reached for comment.

8-RIDE has boosted its service in the wake of the two recent homicides in Rogers Park causing safety concerns. The transportation service now begins the night with all eight vans and four phone dispatchers, up from two, but Campus Transportation has said students should expect longer wait times for vans due to an increased volume of calls.

Students told The Phoenix 8-RIDE failed to pick them up at all on some occasions.

That happened despite the students giving dispatchers the necessary information (a pickup and dropoff address, a cell phone number, a student ID number and name) or scheduling it correctly through the app.

When the vans do show, some students have reported hour-plus long wait times — a far cry from the 20-30 minute wait time advertised by the service.

When first asked, manager of campus transportation Gretchen Carey said a 45 minute-plus wait “is an outlier” for an 8-RIDE and she was unaware of students being forgotten by drivers.

However, she said students who’ve been stood up by an 8-RIDE van recently, whether they used the app or called, could’ve been victims of a glitch in the system’s servers. Carey said the glitch was resolved Oct. 5, as far as she knows, after a student complained.

Carey said she couldn’t comment on specific incidents without detailed information from the students affected.

Ally Runnion | The Phoenix

Becca Gallas, 20, was also stood up by her 8-RIDE when trying to get a ride home from a friend’s place a few weeks ago. After waiting an hour for the van to arrive, she called back to get some answers.

As it turns out, Gallas said, the dispatcher told her she’d already been marked picked up and dropped off.

“That’s a mistake they can’t afford to make,” the junior exercise science major said.

It also happened to senior Flavia Festa twice. She works at Loyola’s Information Commons (IC), so when she has a late shift, she’d often take 8-RIDE from her apartment to campus.

Last December, Festa called a van to her apartment around midnight. The dispatcher on the phone told her it’d be about a 10-20 minute wait time.

After a half hour, Festa called 8-RIDE back to check on an updated arrival time — said she was stunned when the dispatcher, unlike Masciopinto’s situation, said no van had been sent to her address and they couldn’t find her previous call.

The dispatcher told Festa she’d send a van as soon as she could. But it was getting close to the start of her shift at the IC, so Festa called for an Uber and cancelled the 8-RIDE.

In April, it happened again, Festa said. But this time, she never had to cancel the 8-RIDE, because no driver ever called her. She hopped in an Uber because she assumed she would’ve been waiting for the 8-RIDE all night.

“Now I never rely on 8-RIDE,” the journalism major said. “I cannot trust them.”

Carey said she realized a student’s recent complaint about an error message on 8-RIDE’s app could also explain some students’ phone calls getting lost in the system.

Not all of 8-RIDE’s problems come from glitches, however. Festa reached out to 8-RIDE in December via email with her experience. Carey said the department determined the dispatcher was at fault, and the dispatcher was “retrained.”

Carey said without more specifics, she can’t say whether any of the other students’ issues were caused by the glitch or human error. She added she doesn’t hear many complaints from students about 8-RIDE and encourages feedback.

“This is … clearly an issue of safety,” Carey said. “We want [students] to share as much feedback … so that we can improve service.”

When the vans do show up, students have also said they end up waiting long past the estimated arrival time.

Sophomores Anna Wirth and Paige Williamson, both 20, said they ended up cancelling their 8-RIDE twice in the last three weeks due to long waits.

On one occasion, the two said, they waited inside The New 400 Theater on North Sheridan Road for about 45 minutes for their 8-RIDE. After the theater closed at midnight and left them outside, they only waited another 15 minutes before they cancelled the ride and opted for an Uber home.

Wirth and Williamson said they don’t believe 8-RIDE is the safest option for students to get home and would rather risk walking because of the long wait times.

Carey said she’s unsure if students are still experiencing problems after the glitch was fixed, but if they are, they should contact her office by emailing or by calling 773-508-7036.

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