Washington University Students love to volunteer; they just need a way to get there!

Students volunteering at a food packing event

WUSTL Volunteers

Washington University in St. Louis students are engaged in civic action; in fact, “67 percent of undergraduate students participate in community service” (WUSTL Admissions). With 90% of WUSTL’s 6,800 undergraduate students hailing from out of state and 65% coming from further that 500 miles away, many students do not have cars in their new St. Louis home (WUSTL). Students struggle to find transportation from the Danforth Campus to local organizations throughout the community. Affordable and efficient transportation is imperative to their ability to continue their civic engagement.

 

Gephardt Institute CarShare Fund

The Gephardt Institute for Civic and Community Engagement at Washington University in St. Louis exists to cultivate “informed and actively engaged citizens” (Gephardt Institute). Gephardt works to remove barriers to students getting involved. Seeking to solve the problem of student transportation, they implemented a car rental program with Enterprise CarShare. The program allows undergraduate students to rent vehicles at no cost to themselves to drive to volunteer organizations. The car rental program costs $5 an hour for the Gephardt Institute. If a student volunteered for 4 hours once a week at a location 30 minutes away, the student would drive to the location, the car would then sit idly for four hours, and then the student would drive home; though the car was only being driven for 1 hour, Gephardt paid $25 for all 5 hours. The CarShare program successfully provided the student with convenient and affordable transportation, but was financially taxing on the institution.

 

Our Solution: Transportation Matching

Realizing the lack of affordable and reliable transportation for student volunteers, we set out to find solutions. We knew there were so many students on campus with cars; they could make a difference in the community by driving student volunteers. We set out to make a program to match student volunteers with students willing to drive them. Check out how we collected our data, how we formulated our optimization, our Matlab implementation, our successful results, and how to you could sign up for the future program.

 

Has this been done before?

We believe we are the first to create a rise sharing program especially for volunteers, but ride sharing isn’t new. Universities including The University of Utah, The University of Puget Sound, and Oregon State University all have ride sharing programs.