L8-RIDE: Students Report Experiencing Delays With Loyola’s Safe-Ride Program

As the temperature has dropped, 8-RIDE wait times have risen, causing multiple students to choose to walk instead of taking the university-provided service that might offer more warmth and safety.

Loyola’s 8-RIDE program intends to provide students with a safe mode of transportation late at night, but some students have reported extended wait times, which officials say have been caused by inclement weather.

The goal of the 8-RIDE service, according to Loyola’s website, is “to provide prompt, safe, and quality service” for students within a few miles of campus. The university’s fleet includes eight vans, each with ten available seats for students, according to Gretchen Carey, Loyola’s manager of campus transportation.

During the 2020-2021 academic year, Loyola switched from using the OneMV app to TripShot, a change Carey said was implemented because TripShot was “more Uber-like” and “familiar” for students. Even before the university used the TripShot app, students have still made complaints about the service for years.

“I have lost my faith in it entirely,” junior Ashely Foster said about the 8-RIDE program.

Foster, an advertising and public relations major, said wait times this semester have far exceeded what they have in previous semesters. 

“Sometimes I had to wait, but never more than 20 or 30 minutes,” Foster, 20, said. “Which, I mean, still not great, but it showed up.”

She recounted an experience from Jan. 28 in which she and her friend ordered a vehicle around 11:30 p.m. which was scheduled to pick them up 20 minutes later.

She described watching the app show the driver going north past their location and back south, finally parking on North Kenmore Avenue between Mundelein Center for Fine and Performing Arts and Damen Student Center.

“We just saw her go and park where the 8-RIDE’s park on campus and she’s just hanging out there,” Foster said. “And it keeps getting delayed and delayed. So, we just decided to cancel it and try again because she obviously had no interest in coming to pick us up.”

This location is actually a pick-up stop for students at Cuneo Hall between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. every 30 minutes. Here, students don’t need to request a ride, but can instead be picked up from the Cuneo lobby, which they access using their student ID.

Upon canceling, Foster tried to order a second 8-RIDE, but TripShot said it wouldn’t arrive until 1 a.m, almost an hour later.

“We just decided to walk home because we were tired of waiting,” Foster said, who ended up having to make a 15-minute walk from her friend’s apartment.

As the manager of campus transportation, Carey oversees parking operations on both campuses and monitors and analyzes 8-RIDE wait times each day. Carey said the only possible cause for the supposed delays is due to an uptick in ride requests because of the cold and inclement weather.

“It is difficult for our vans to pass on some of these side streets and things like that,” Carey said.

This is consistent with a message sent through the TripShot app to users on Feb. 1 reading that students should “anticipate delays to transportation services” and should allot “plenty of time for travel” due to the predicted snow storm that week.

“This time of year you always see an increase in wait times a little bit, because there’s so many more people who want to use the service,” Carey said. “They don’t want to be out in the cold.”

Due to “student privacy purposes,” Carey said Loyola can’t release the data detailing how long wait times are for each ride and how many students cancel their requests.

The Campus Transportation Office also deals with the school’s service provider MV Transportation, a third-party servicing 250 public and private organizations throughout North America. At Loyola, MV is fully in charge of the intercampus shuttle and most of the 8-RIDE operations.

“We are proud that this year will mark the 8th year of our partnership with Loyola University and it remains one of our company’s marquee university shuttle programs,” MV Transportation’s Chief Marketing Officer Jeff Womack wrote in an email to The Phoenix.

When scheduling an On Demand ride through the TripShot app and selecting the pickup and dropoff locations, a Loyola student has the option of typing in an exact address, selecting specific campus buildings or using a current location.

“It’s really designed for you not to be waiting on a street, not to be doing anything but to be in a location where you’re safe,” Carey said. “Our van can pull-up, you can get into the van and then you can go to your other location and be dropped off safely.”

21-year-old sociology major Mallory Ocanas, who describes herself as a “frequent 8-RIDE user” says she has had multiple conversations with the 8-RIDE drivers discussing their trouble this semester.

“They’ve mentioned some frustration in a lack of staffing,” Ocanas said. “How they are expected to compensate for the lack of staffing, but don’t get any additional pay for that.”

When asked about staff shortages, Carey reiterated the fact that MV employs and trains the drivers and Loyola does not. She also said that they are notified by MV Transportation if there are any service discrepancies.

MV Transportation said they have not received any n​​egative feedback on their service from Loyola or their drivers.

“While we have had minimal staffing shortages – one or two operators at a time at most – our service has not been impacted,” Womack wrote. “In fact, we continue to meet all of our key performance indicators including on-time arrival and total trips.”

Ocanas said this semester she usually cancels 8-RIDE requests because the wait time has been longer than it has been in previous years.

“A lot of my friends live on the opposite ends of campus and so I don’t like walking at night in the cold through the dark,” Ocanas said. “I’m a woman, too, so that doesn’t make me feel any safer.”

Carey said campus transportation only received one formal complaint this semester, during the first week of February. She said students should submit a feedback form through Loyola’s website and provide as much detailed information as possible.

“You guys are the users every single day, right?” Carey said. “I oversee a system, but you guys are the ones who are having the experience every single day.”

Some students, including senior Daelin Ruetz, are still unaware of where to access the service and don’t understand how it works. Sophomore English and Spanish major Sophie Rounds, who’s also unaware of how to use 8-RIDE, suggested posters may be a way to inform students about the system.

“I feel like it’s not really publicized,” Ruetz said. “I don’t really see anything about it.”

Despite the delays students are experiencing, some students still see the service as useful and essential for the college experience.

“I think when it does work it is effective,” Foster said. “I wish there was a way to call your driver individually and just be able to ask, ‘Hey, it keeps getting delayed. Will you be here soon or should I plan on another way of getting home?’”

Loyola students can schedule an 8-RIDE between the hours of 6:30 p.m. to 4 a.m. by downloading the TripShot app, calling ​​773-508-7433 or using extension 8.7433 (8.RIDE) from a university phone line.

Students have reported longer than usual wait times for Loyola’s 8-RIDE program. (Austin Hojdar | The Phoenix)
Austin Hojdar

Austin Hojdar