Late Night Ride needs fix

By Kim Randall

There is a lot of work to be done in order to make Late Night Ride become the system it can and should be: fast, smooth and painless.

A March 24 NIU Today release said the Student Association and the Department of Police and Public Safety released a survey on Late Night Ride for students to take and voice their opinions about aspects of the service. The survey was available until Friday.

“With the survey … we aimed to gather the opinions of students in regard to their experiences with using Late Night Ride,” said SA Senate Speaker Dillon Domke. “We received over 450 responses and plan to analyze those results to find ways to make tune-ups within the system.”

The survey was long overdue, as the ride service has been toeing a thin line between efficiency and uselessness for quite some time.

The long waiting times that come with scheduling a ride are a big example of such inefficiency.

Nearly every time I call I wait for what feels like years only to get through and speak to a dispatcher, and then wait again for a ride to be sent to me. As if that isn’t enough, calls are sometimes even dropped if the server is too busy. Oh, sure, I’ll wait another hour. NIU should add more vans to Late Night Ride’s fleet to eliminate — or at least ease — these issues.

Yes, Late Night Ride calls back when a van is available, but by that time students may have already decided to risk their safety by walking alone at night.

These long wait times discourage students from even wanting to bother with the system.

I took the survey and I recall being asked if students were aware the DeKalb community also utilizes the Late Night Ride service.

I don’t mind that the DeKalb community uses the system, but that could be a factor to the slowness.

Students should not have to feel like they’re competing for rides with townies. Although it isn’t funded by student fees, Late Night Ride should be centered around serving students.

But, since Late Night Ride has a “no questions asked” policy, it can be hard to tell who is using the system.

“It’s a student system primarily, but DeKalb residents have been known to use the service, as well,” Domke said. “Finding a way around the ‘no questions asked’ policy without doing away with it is the issue.”

The addition of more vans can deter community use from affecting student use. Condensing the routes to just the campus area and requiring identification for any ride requests outside of those routes can help as well.

This way, the service makes sure it is still serving its primary purpose of being a safe ride for students who are out late.

Requests for comment from Bill Nicklas, vice president for Operations and Community Relations, and NIU Police Chief Tom Phillips were not returned.