DeKALB – Northern Illinois University officials said changes to the university’s Late Night Ride service are intended to improve efficiency and ensure the service isn’t being abused.
Late Night Ride, a free service provided by the university, has been offered since the late 1980s. Five vans are in operation from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. daily, and those seeking rides call to be picked up.
Until the beginning of the fall semester, anyone could use Late Night Ride and be taken to or picked up from anywhere in the DeKalb/Sycamore area. NIU police Sgt. Alan Smith said Late Night Ride vans traveled as far as Elburn if someone requested a ride from the train station.
NIU Spokesman Paul Palian said adjusting the rules mean people can’t take advantage of the service.
“It’s a good way to ensure it’s being used by the campus community, which it’s intended for,” he said.
As vans made repeated trips to places such as Walmart during the same night, ride wait times reached 15 to 20 minutes, Smith said. On a typical weekend night, a driver picks up about 50 people. With greater restrictions, they hope to cut the response time to five or six minutes.
“We’re trying to focus on our core group,” he said.
The establishment of green and red zones limits the geographical area and use of the service. Within the green zone – focusing on the university campus and bordered by Dresser Road, Taylor Street, Fourth Street north to Hillcrest Drive, Hillcrest Drive west to First Street, north to Dresser Road and President’s Boulevard – rides will be given to anyone during normal hours of operation, Smith said.
The red zone is more restrictive. Bordered by Bethany Road, Interstate 88, Peace Road and Annie Glidden Road, rides starting or ending in the red zone will be provided to NIU students and staff only between midnight and 5:30 a.m. Sunday through Wednesday and 3 to 5:30 a.m. Thursday through Saturday.
Students must provide their Z-ID numbers when requesting a ride; staff must give their full names. All must show their NIU OneCards when being picked up.
Smith also said rides would not be given between two locations within the red zone. In the past, DeKalb residents sought rides to places such as Nestle. He said he did not know how much was spent on gas each month before the changes take effect.
Future requests for rides to or from places such as the Elburn train station will be handled on a case-by-case basis, Smith said.
“We want to stay within our zones,” he said.
Smith said officials decided to implement the changes at the beginning of the semester after receiving feedback from students and community members. The changes should ensure efficient service for those who need it next weekend during homecoming.