Johns Hopkins Blue Jay Shuttle service gets a lift with Lyft partnership

Free Lyft rides will supplement Homewood-area shuttles on Friday and Saturday nights, helping to keep wait times to a minimum

Blue Jay shuttle at night

Image caption: Beginning with the spring 2018 semester, an expanded fleet of 12 Blue Jay Shuttles will be available for free Night Ride service from 5:30 p.m. to 3:45 a.m. each night.

Credit: Will Kirk / Johns Hopkins University

Hey, Homewood campus: Need a Lyft? We got you one.

As of today, the popular ride-hailing service will become part of the nighttime shuttle program at Homewood. Starting this evening, Johns Hopkins University students and employees who need a Blue Jay Shuttle ride on Friday and Saturday nights could end up, depending on demand, in a Lyft vehicle rather than a university-owned shuttle van.

One of the primary goals, said Greg Smith, director of Transportation Services, is to minimize wait times for riders.

"Starting this weekend, Night Ride is better than ever," Smith said. "We've bought comfortable new vans, hired and trained new drivers, expanded our dispatch team, updated the phone lines, improved the TransLoc Rider app, and added Lyft and Lyft dispatch tools."

The Blue Jay Shuttle Night Ride program—a free, point-to-point service available to all Hopkins affiliates on and around the Homewood campus from 5:30 p.m. until 3:45 a.m. each night—have exploded in popularity, Smith said. During the fall semester, ridership was about 80 percent higher than in previous academic years, up to nearly 10,000 riders a month.

To meet the added demand and reduce wait times, the Blue Jay Shuttle fleet has been expanded to a dozen vans, and new drivers have been added to keep all 12 shuttles on the street seven nights a week.

That should cover weeknight demand, Smith said. But on busy Friday and Saturday nights, to prevent wait times from rising above the goal of 10 minutes, university dispatchers can now call in Lyft reinforcements. A dispatcher may ask if a rider will accept a ride from Lyft rather than a university shuttle. If the answer is yes, the dispatcher will send a Lyft driver.

Lyft service will fold seamlessly into the existing Blue Jay Shuttle Night Ride program. There's no need for users to download the Lyft app—they can reach Blue Jay Shuttle dispatchers by using the TransLoc Rider app, or by calling 410-516-8700—and the university will take care of the rest. That includes paying the bill—both the shuttle service and the Lyft surge capacity are free for students, faculty members, and staff.

Riders will be notified by text message when their Lyft vehicles arrive; the driver will wait no more than five minutes.

Outline of geographical area serviced by Blue Jay Shuttle Night Ride

Image caption: Overview of the geographical area serviced by Blue Jay Shuttle Night Rides.

The service area for Homewood-dispatched Lyft rides is the same as for the Blue Jay Shuttle Night Ride service (the area can be viewed on the adjacent map or within the TransLoc Rider app). Both pickup and drop-off points must be within the service area.

There are also plans in the works to use Lyft as a vehicle escort service for students, faculty, and staff who live near the Johns Hopkins East Baltimore campus. Details are still being worked out and will be announced at a later date.