More students are choosing safe travel options at night, and the Escort Service run by the Student Affairs office implemented a temporary expansion program to accommodate the demand.
The number of Escort Service riders has increased this year, leading to the addition of two mini-vans and another dispatcher for Thursday through Monday nights, said Escort coordinator Ben Brenner. Better service was one of the top suggestions by this year's Undergraduate Budget Priorities Committee.
“We experienced a lot more passengers than we have in the past,” said Brenner. “Winter quarter ridership was up 45 percent."
There has been steady growth in the service's popularity this year. In winter quarter, more than 19,000 people used Escort, with an average of about 260 people a night. In the fall, the nightly average was 171, and this spring the average number has risen to about 300 students per night.
The Escort service -- which will be renamed SafeRide in the fall -- began as a volunteer program by the Naval ROTC. Members met fellow students and then walked them to their destination. The University took control of this walking escort in 1993 and the service went through a variety of changes. The second version was a bicycle service -- volunteers rode their bikes to the pick-up location and then walked back with the student. Eventually cars were introduced into the system, creating the fleet of five student-driven Chevy Cavaliers and two mini-vans that can be seen on campus and Evanston streets each night of the week.
The yellow lights of the Escort cars appear most often at the residence halls, but the coverage area includes much of Evanston. Riders can be taken north as far as Central Street, south to South Boulevard and west to Dodge Avenue.
The Escort Service is available to students, faculty and staff with a WildCARD between 9 p.m. and 2:30 a.m. seven days a week (during Daylight Savings Time, it starts at 8 p.m.). To order a car, call (847) 491-7000. The dispatcher will ask for your name, where you are, where you want to go and how many people are with you. The dispatcher then looks at the log of rides and states when the car will arrive. It operates on a first-call, first-served basis, said Brennan, so future times or dates cannot be requested.
For more information, go to www.northwestern.edu/escort.