Just four students attended the forum on concerns over SafeRide organized by Student Government (SG) and Director of Transportation Rodney Morris in response to an online petition that garnered 500 student signatures. At the meeting Tuesday in Cobb, Morris said he believes current plans for improvement, combined with more student input, can improve the SafeRide system.
Among the four students attending, three were creators of the petition; the other student, fourth-year Katherine Isaac, was the only unaffiliated undergraduate to attend.
Though Morris expressed frustration over the low turnout and called for future meetings, he discussed several changes being made that are intended to improve evening transportation.
“There are deeper issues, and we can’t just do it with seven people in the room,” Morris said, referring to the three administrators and four non–SG affiliated students who attended. “Getting things changed takes a little time, but we are working on the process. I need your help, I need your input, I need your honesty.”
Morris said that the University is looking into hiring a dedicated dispatcher for SafeRide, that transit supervisors will take two-hour shifts at night, and that a script is being written that will allow dispatchers to politely encourage students to head toward shuttle routes if they are nearby.
According to Morris, many students take SafeRide despite other available options, a problem that stems from the absence of an established mission statement for SafeRide usage. “This is where we need a group decision from you, the student body, as to what SafeRide is for,” he said.
Aside from these changes, Morris does not see expansion of the service in the near future. “Putting more buses out there? Not necessarily the best thing to do,” Morris said. “We’re looking into it, it’s an option, but if we don’t change what SafeRide is for it’s just going to add insult to injury.”
The Facebook petition, written by four first-year graduate students, argued that SafeRide’s requirement for students to wait outside for shuttles is a safety issue. It further requested that SafeRide answer all calls made during its hours of operation and for vans to arrive when promised by dispatchers.
Noticing that hundreds of students signed the petition, SG partnered with the Department of Transportation to hold a forum in hopes of allowing students to air their grievances and make suggestions for improvement. Fourth-year and SG President Greg Nance, second-year and SG Vice President of Student Affairs Patrick Ip, and second-year Undergraduate Liaison to the Board of Trustees Frank Alarcon attended. Daniel Pascale, director of communications and security technology, and Brandon Dodd, assistant director of transit, also attended with Morris.
Students at the meeting agreed that SafeRide is often misused, though they still had concerns over inability to reach a dispatcher, long wait times, and lack of estimated arrival times.
Morris described a lack of clarity over SafeRide’s usage as a cause for the majority of student frustration. He said usual SafeRide delays occur when students are not ready for pickup, when they ask drivers to change the van’s route, or do not tell dispatchers in advance about multiple destinations.
To make it easier for students to track down standard evening transportation routes, Morris said flatscreen TVs displaying the TransLoc map of various shuttles’ locations will be installed in the Reynolds Club, the Regenstein Library, and the Ratner gym throughout next quarter.
Alarcon proposed using the UCPD Umbrella Coverage services as another means of alleviating the strain put on SafeRide. Umbrella Coverage has historically been underused, according to fourth-year and SG Community and Government Liaison Allen Linton, but may be more appropriate than SafeRide for students only needing to walk a few blocks.
Alarcon expressed hope that future forums would involve more of the community. “There are various factors that affect turnout: students are very busy, holidays are coming up, it’s cold outside. We’ll hold future forums and hopefully get some more turnout just so Rodney and his staff can hear more ideas and more perspectives.”