A free service that gave more than 39,000 lifts to University of Nevada, Reno students, faculty, and staff in the past academic year turns 30 this fall.
Beginning with students walking each other across campus in 1984, Campus Escort now touts a dozen vehicles in its fleet, nine of which are the service's signature white minivans clearly marked with decals. Funded through the Associated Students of the University of Nevada, Campus Escort offers on-demand rides from 7 p.m.-1 a.m., seven days a week from the University to destinations within three miles from the campus perimeter.
Student volunteers typically escorted two people a night in 1984, but that number steadily increased since the 1991-1992 academic year.
Chris Partridge, Coordinator of Student Engagement at the Center for Student Engagement, supervises Campus Escort and said the service gave 39,082 rides in the 2013-2014 academic year. He cited multiple ways of requesting service as a reason for the all-time high.
"Even just two or three years ago, riders would have to place a call into Campus Escort," Partridge said. "If you couldn't get through, then you would have to keep calling until you got an answer on that phone. Now we have an automated answering system that can take calls without talking to a dispatcher."
While a dispatcher can still be reached by dialing 775-742-6808 and pressing "0," riders can also schedule rides online and through the "This Is Nevada" mobile app. Once a driver has been assigned a request, riders can track their van online via GPS. A University-recognized property, such as Greek Life houses, must be at the start or end of a trip.
The program now employs 30 student escorts, the most in its 30-year history. Justin Schneider, a senior criminal justice major, has worked for Campus Escort for two years. He experienced the service's transition from paper forms to technology upgrades streamlining the Campus Escort logging system. The fleet is outfitted with tablets to track start and end times and demographics of the students using the service. The additions also feature a way to notify riders the escort van is outside their building.
Schneider's favorite part of the job is getting to know the University's diverse student body, whether it is conversing with regular riders or first-timers.
"I use Campus Escort to find out what's going on around campus," said Schneider, who lives off campus.
Campus Escort continues to expand its services as enrollment and demand increases, two more contributors to its popularity. It is working with the Center for Student Engagement to start what Partridge calls a "civic engagement shuttle." Staffed by Campus Escort drivers and operated by the Center for Student Engagement, the initiative would allow University student groups to request shuttle service to a community event within a 50-mile radius of campus.
Using its navy blue 12-passenger van with Campus Escort decals, the program also launched a Saturday service from Downunder Café to shopping centers at Mae Anne Avenue and McCarran Boulevard for students to stock up on groceries and other items. The weekend service will add rides to and from Ponderosa Village this fall.
The program partnered with University Parking and Transportation Services in fall 2013 to provide a fixed-route shuttle service from 6-11 p.m., Monday-Thursday. Riders traveling to and from locations such as the Joe Crowley Student Union, Lombardi Recreation Center and The Highlands apartments, among others, can catch the shuttle instead of requesting a ride. This service will continue in the new academic year.
"It runs to the most popular places throughout the night to reduce call volume and make it more convenient," Partridge said. "When you're giving 39,000 rides, you can't do all those with just minivans."