Students prefer new Uber service

Despite Campus Cruiser’s new app, students say they prefer USC Uber for late night transportation.

According to Director of Transportation Tony Mazza, however, USC’s partnership with Uber has neither diminished the role of Campus Cruiser nor negatively impacted the amount of students hired as drivers for the program.

“The staffing required to manage the operation puts us in the position to hire students all year long,” Mazza said.

Transportation expanded its program with Uber in the area around the University Park Campus for the Fall 2015 semester. Uber’s collaboration with the Campus Cruiser program began last semester to ameliorate concerns over long wait times during peak hours of the safe-rides service.

The original pilot program offered free Uber rides to USC students, faculty and staff Thursday through Saturday night from 8 p.m. until midnight, when Campus Cruiser wait periods exceeded 15 minutes.

“The University Affairs team brought up the extension to administration in an initiative to support student safety every night,” said Maariyah Patel, co-director of University Affairs for the Undergraduate Student Government. “We realized that peak hours for campus cruiser include after midnight and supplementary Uber services would really help USC students.”

Now, free Uber rides within Transportation’s service boundaries are available nightly, from 7 p.m. until 2 a.m., in an effort to further supplement Campus Cruiser services.

Margaret Hong, a sophomore majoring in industrial and systems engineering, said she favors using Uber.

“It’s easier than Campus Cruiser because you don’t have to call them and you just have to use the Uber app,” she said. “Usually it comes faster than Campus Cruiser.”

Catherine Bedoya, a freshman majoring in political science, echoed Hong’s sentiments.

“I have used [Uber] with my friends and by myself,” she said. “I think it was really awesome. It is so much easier [than Campus Cruiser], and I’m more familiar with Uber because I have used it outside of campus. The drivers were really friendly. We were three people. There was no waiting line, and we were not waiting for too long.”

Mazza noted that Uber has done a great job of developing their technology and effectively supplementing the Campus Cruiser program to meet the increased demand of safe rides within the USC boundaries.

“The app and technology we are using within Campus Cruiser provides a similar automated dispatch system,” Mazza said.

The app used by the Cruiser workforce ensures that it stays within its target wait time of 15 minutes.

In order to access free rides through the program, students must sign up with Uber through their USC email addresses and enter the promo code “USCFALL2015,” which adds the USC button to the Uber app.  All requests made via the USC button, within the designated times and location boundaries, are UberPool trips, a carpooling feature that matches riders traveling along a similar route.

The demand for safe transportation at USC is astounding, according to Mazza, who said that Campus Cruiser and Uber combined provide over 17,000 rides per week — a need that could not be supported by the Campus Cruiser program alone.

Campus Cruiser has also made a concerted effort to improve the program’s efficiency and accessibility with the creation of a “USC Campus Cruiser” mobile app. Addressing concerns of long wait times and difficulties calling for a cruiser, the Campus Cruiser app is an effort to make it easier to request and track locations of cruisers. Additionally, it allows members of the USC community to request rides either online or on their smartphones nightly, from 6 p.m. until 2:45 a.m.

“Students are no longer tied to waiting on the phone to set up their request [with Campus Cruiser],” Mazza said. “The smartphone and web applications enable students to request their ride virtually from any location. This, in conjunction with the Uber program, ensures all students can get a safe ride home.”

Unfortunately, students without smartphones or other web-enabled mobile devices will be unable to utilize the Uber and Campus Cruiser apps. However, Patel said that the Campus Cruiser call number is still readily at students’ disposal.

“Campus Cruiser will always be the primary option to accommodate students who do not have access to mobile applications,” Patel said.

Nadine Apilado contributed to this report.