Free Uber program to end after the fall semester

Curran Neenan | Staff Reporter

Washington University’s partnership with Uber, which gave free rides to and from campus for students living north and south of the Delmar Loop and in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhoods since September, will expire at the end of the fall semester.

There are no plans to renew the partnership, which began amid the spate of carjackings and robberies in September. Vice Chancellor for Operations and Technology Transfer Dedric Carter said that the program was never meant to be a long-term solution for students living off campus.

“The subsidized Uber program was always intended to be a very short-term, supplemental component to our transportation strategy and that’s playing itself out,” Carter said.

Students who lived in select areas had access to two free rides a day totaling up to 20 dollars. It also subsidized trips to areas outside the discounted zone, with students only paying for the portion of the journey beyond the fare-free area.

Junior Chris Colon, who lives on University Drive, said while he acknowledges the University’s issues with the program, it was useful at night.

“I understand why they’re doing it because I know a lot of people just use the Ubers to get to classes, but at the same time, it is kind of frustrating and inconvenient because there are a lot of times that I don’t want to walk home or I don’t think that I should,” Colon said.

Colon says that the free Ubers helped him feel safer when travelling home in the evening.

“Sometimes when it’s really late at night, and the roads aren’t really well-lit, I don’t feel super comfortable walking home,” Colon said.

The Uber partnership was one of several updates to the transportation infrastructure made during the crime wave. Five new shuttles were added along the Green Line route in September, and the University is currently in talks with Metro to add larger shuttles to the route as well. The operating hours of the Circulator were extended until 4 a.m., and a new shuttle will run from Mallinckrodt Hall to 560 Music Center every half hour.

The University is also looking to improve the Campus2Home service, a free shuttle system for students living off-campus.

“We’ll probably look at the coverage map for the spring and see if there’s anything we need to change to make sure we’re getting the full set of students. For undergraduates, it seems to be pretty good coverage. For graduate students, we’re looking some more at that,” Carter said.

Wash. U. Police Department Chief Mark Glenn says that a comprehensive transportation infrastructure makes it easier for WUPD to do its job.

“Having a well-orchestrated transportation plan really helps out our mission to provide safety and security infrastructure to the University…overall, it provides students with more options, which is always important because one means isn’t necessarily the best means for everyone,” Glenn said.

Additionally, WUPD plans to add four new officers next semester. According to Glenn, the addition is not entirely because of the increase in crime.

“I think any time when you’re looking at the department you have to look towards the future. We’ve seen the growth of the University as a whole, so we just want to make sure we have enough staff to provide quality services on and off campus,” Glenn said.

Carter believes that increasing WUPD’s presence would be a beneficial step to take.

“I think some of the best things we can do are to make sure there are more boots on the ground [and] eyes in the area, making sure spaces are lighted and that there’s a presence,” Carter said. “We consistently look at our pathways to make sure they’re well-lit enough and that we have mechanisms for students to engage with public safety officials if they feel they’re in danger.”