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Credit: Gillian Diebold

Instead of forking over six dollars for a cross-campus Uber to class in freezing temperatures, Penn students can now hail free rides through a new Penn Transit ride-sharing app.

Penn Business Services developed the app called “Penn Rides on Request” to allow students to call for free rides from Penn Transit-operated vehicles to areas around Penn’s campus and to view current locations of Penn buses. Penn students are able to request vehicles to pick them up and drop them off within the boundaries from 42nd Street to Rittenhouse Square in Center City, Curry said. Trips must also be more than half a mile.

The free app is available on the Apple and Android app stores and is currently being promoted by the Undergraduate Assembly following a period where the group tested the services. The app was launched for testing in November 2018 and has been in development over the past year, UA representative and College and Wharton junior Maria Curry said.

Throughout the past fall semester, the UA worked with Penn Transit to provide administrators with recommendations, such as a notification for when a driver is approaching, Curry added.

UA President and College senior Michael Krone said students can request “Penn Rides vehicles in the same way you would request an Uber vehicle.”

There are no costs for requesting rides, unlike popular services like Uber or Lyft. He added that wait times for ride requests are generally about 20 minutes. Penn affiliates must show their PennCards to use these services.

The app also shows the current locations of Penn Transit’s circulating buses, including Penn Bus East and Penn Bus West, which loop around Center City and Spruce Hill respectively. Shuttles to the FMC Tower and Pennovation Center are also available.

Curry has been working on the project with UA representative and College junior Arjun Swaminathan, who is a writer for 34th Street. Swaminathan said he initially reached out to Penn Business Services last year with ideas about updating the existing Penn Transit app, who then informed him about their plans to develop a ride-sharing component.

Through feedback already elicited from students who have used the Penn Transit app, Curry noted several primary concerns with the function of the app.

Although trips must currently be more than half a mile to warrant requesting a ride, Curry hopes Penn Transit will lower the requirement to accommodate shorter-distance rides. She also hopes that more fixed pick-up and drop-off locations will be added to the service in addition to existing stops, such as David Rittenhouse Laboratories and the Quad. Curry also said the UA will work with Penn Transit to create informative videos about how to use the app to alleviate confusion for users.

Penn Transit and the UA are also now working on setting up student focus groups to streamline student feedback to administrators. Curry plans to reach out to student groups who may find this app the most useful, including first-generation, low-income students and students who live or work off campus.

Penn Rides on Request has already completed more than 850 rides since its release, Curry said.

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