UT transportation service aims to prevent drunk driving

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uRide 24-5 — a pilot transportation service for University students, faculty and staff — launched Monday and will taxi students from the Perry-Castaneda Library to residential neighborhoods at no cost from midnight to 3 a.m.

The service — a combined effort between Parking and Transportation Services, Student Government and private car service uRide Inc. — uses uRide 24-5’s branded cars to facilitate free transportation from the library to residential neighborhoods in Far West, Lake Austin and Riverside Drive.

uRide 24-5 uses a fleet of black Toyota Prii and a smartphone app that tracks each car’s progress on its route, Student Government financial director Kornel Rady said.

Student Government plans to expand the service coverage to downtown in the spring if the pilot program is successful, Rady said. The downtown expansion is intended in part to prevent students from drinking and driving, but funding has not been secured. If expanded, the Fall program would be called Safe Ride.

“Through uRide 24-5, we will be able to offer a safer, more reliable option to students who would otherwise have to walk home or attempt catching one of the University shuttles home,” Rady said.

Funding for the pilot program came from a $14,000 grant given to Parking and Transportation Services by the Office of the Dean of Students, said Blanca Juarez, Parking and Transportation Services spokeswoman. She said the grant would fund the program to align with the library’s 24-5 schedule for the duration of the fall semester. 

Finance sophomore Victoria Guerra said she frequently uses the E-Bus to venture downtown instead of using her car because of parking difficulties and traffic. She said she wonders if the Safe Ride service will offer a solution to what she sees as the unreliable nature of campus shuttles.

“It seems there are not as many buses this semester as before, which makes you not want to go out because you don’t know if you’ll be able to find dependable means of transportation,” Guerra said. “The free service for the PCL definitely sounds more convenient and dependable than existing shuttle options, but if there’s a cost associated with the downtown service, I don’t see how choosing uRide is any different from calling a taxi.”

Rady said uRide 24-5 differs from other taxi services by only allowing University students, faculty and staff to use the library and downtown services.

“uRide Inc. is working with UT EID scanning systems like those found on the E-Bus to verify your identity and ability to partake in the service,” Rady said. 

Nathalia Lopez, speech and language pathology sophomore, said she holds concerns about passenger safety.

“Safety is a big concern for me regarding the service, especially if you happen to be riding alone,” Lopez said. 

Rady said discussions between the University and uRide Inc. regarding liability contractual agreements are currently ongoing.

uRide Inc.’s corporate offices could not be reached for comment.

Correction: In the Oct. 15 edition of the Daily Texan an error was made in this article. The title "uRide 24-5" refers to the pilot initiative that will be in place during the Fall semester of 2013. The Spring program, if enacted, will be called "Safe Ride."