UT is relaunching Safe Ride as a pilot program because of a lack of funds needed to permanently continue the ride-sharing service for the fall semester.
Safe Ride is a free Parking and Transportation Services program that drives University students from the downtown entertainment district to their homes between midnight and 3 a.m. Thursday–Saturday. Safe Ride picks up riders at the corner of San Jacinto Boulevard and Eighth Street and drops them off at their homes in the West Campus or East Riverside residential areas.
Safe Ride began as a Student Government initiative started by former SG President Kori Rady and is contracted through uRide, a ride-sharing service. SG completely funds Safe Ride, and the program could become permanent if the reintroduced pilot is successful, according to Blanca Gamez, assistant director for Parking and Transportation Services.
“Before I left, we were looking for long-term funding, but we had enough to keep the program going for a while,” Rady said. “The only thing preventing it from being permanent was the long-term source of funding for ‘X’ amount of years, and we needed that to get a long-term contract.”
Since Safe Ride’s original launch in fall 2014, students have taken more than 7,000 trips with the program, said Gamez. PTS will collect more data on the pilot program this semester to assess whether it should become a permanent campus program, according to Gamez.
“The pilot [program] is to give us enough statistical information to whether or not we should actually move forward with having a permanent program that’s funded here on our campus,” Gamez said. “The pilot is kind of to test the waters.”
uRide CEO Robert Dick said he thinks the program took off after UT implemented the service last fall and would like to see it continued long-term if the funds are available. So far, there is not a long-term plan available, said Dick.
“We’d love for it to be a permanent program,” Dick said. “If the students are happy with it, UT’s happy with it, we’re happy with it. It’s just a matter of funding. I think everyone agrees who works with the department that this is something we should do, we just have to figure out how.”
Biology freshman Belen Gutierrez said free rides from downtown to residential areas reduces the inconvenience of finding a ride after having a fun night.
“It’s less of a hassle, safer and they’re looking out for you so you don’t have to worry about some drunk friend taking you home,” Gutierrez said.
Gamez said UT will continue to offer Safe Ride as an alternative for students with no better option to get home from downtown until the Safe Ride program gets permanent funding.
“I hope that it becomes a permanent program just because it’s a great way to keep students safe from the dangers of drinking and driving,” Gamez said. “Once we know that there is permanent funding, then we can go through the whole process of selecting a vendor who will provide us the service here on campus."