October 10, 2008

Editorial: Asleep at the wheel

The University should now turn its attention to the other flaws in the SafeRide program.

In the time it took you to read this sentence, you could have ordered a pizza online. Fifteen minutes from now you could check back to find that it is en route to you, and within 30 minutes, you could be enjoying Cheesy Bread. If the delivery were delayed, you could easily place a call to the provided number to receive an update on its status.

If, on the other hand, you wanted to get to your friend’s apartment and called SafeRide (known to most as the “Drunk Van”), it would be another story. Assuming the dispatcher picked up, you might wait anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour. Worse, you’d have no way of knowing where your van was or when it would arrive, increasing the likelihood that it would just drive off with you none the wiser to its passing.

Following through with its pledge to improve campus safety, the University purchased several new vans over the summer. While this is a significant improvement over the ragtag fleet of unmarked vans that patrolled Hyde Park last year, the antiquated and frustrating system of calling and waiting for a ride leaves many students disinclined to use the service.

The University should now turn its attention to the other flaws in the SafeRide program. Specifically, it should introduce a system that allows students to follow the progress of their vans from their computer—a program that has been adopted successfully by universities like USC. Digitizing the system would strongly complement the University’s already-extended efforts, making it easier for students to order rides—say, by going to a designated website and entering their addresses—while simultaneously cutting out the turmoil that goes along with trying to order a van over the phone from receptionists who are often flustered, rude, or both. Allowing students to keep track of their rides would decrease waiting time for all parties, and by creating a unified tracking system of shuttles and waiting students the University could send drivers on more efficient routes that would save time and fuel.

With the combination of colder weather and the recent rash of violent crime, the need for a more practical late-night shuttle is even more pressing. To have already invested the time and effort to purchase new vans and increase service but not devote similar resources to making the service more accessible threatens to leave many students out in the cold.

The Maroon Editorial Board consists of the Editor-in-Chief, Managing Editor, Viewpoints Editors, and an additional Editorial Board member.