Over 100,000 rides were hailed on Penn Transit's free ridesharing application to date this year.
Amid the high demand, the Undergraduate Assembly is pushing for PennRides on Request to lower the minimum distance required to request rides and allow ride requests before 6 p.m., Chair of UA’s Dining, Housing, and Transit committee Maria Curry said.
The app had been downloaded over 10,000 times as of the end of September, Senior Associate Director of Penn Transit Michael Randolph wrote in an email to The Daily Pennsylvanian. The app facilitates an average of 5,000 rides per week.
The number of rides facilitated by Penn Transit has increased since the rollout of the app — 26,000 rides were completed in October 2019, Randolph wrote, which is up from 16,500 rides completed in October 2018 before the app’s launch.
UA President and College senior Natasha Menon said the app has been used to call more than 100,000 rides as of the end of September.
These statistics followed promotional efforts led by Penn Transit and the UA. Since the app’s rollout, the groups sourced student feedback through focus groups to improve the user experience. Despite these improvements, Penn student government members feel there are issues with the app.
Rides are currently only available after 6 p.m., although Curry wants to expand to include rides during the daytime. The administration wants to encourage students to walk to class for wellness purposes. But Curry, a College and Wharton senior, said students would likely prefer a ride, rather than walking across campus in the cold.
Curry wanted to lobby to lower the minimum distance for requesting rides, which is currently a half-mile. This requirement makes it difficult for students to request rides across campus, because most half-mile distances extend beyond Penn’s campus, Curry added.
Curry said she raised these issues at a meeting with Penn Business Services last Friday, and will be meeting with them again within the next two weeks.
Penn Transit and the UA have sought student feedback regarding the app’s functionality through focus groups conducted in the spring, Curry said. She said she reached out to groups of students who would benefit from using the app, including first-generation, low-income students and students living off-campus.
The feedback from the focus groups helped Penn Transit identify bugs to make the app more user-friendly, Curry said.
The app launched a Rate Your Ride feature last month, Randolph wrote. He said the feature allows riders to immediately rate the timeliness, driver courtesy, and safety of their ride, as well as add additional comments.
Penn Rides on Request began its rollout in February and is currently available on the Apple and Google Play stores for free. The app allows users to hail rides from Penn Transit-operated vehicles to fixed locations around campus, as long as the distance is at least a half-mile. The app aimed to streamline Penn Transit’s existing service that allows users to call for rides through a phone call.
Penn Transit released a series of videos to promote the app and educate users last month.
All comments eligible for publication in Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. publications.