Its presence is around dorms, lecture halls and the back of student’s Bearcat cards. Freshmen and international students are introduced early to the program through orientations and classes.
For many years, the Safe Ride Home program has been providing late-night taxi and shuttle services.
Safe Ride Home is a job done by students for students. Sophomore and co-manager for Safe Ride Home Westly Bertha has been working there a little over a year.
“It’s really been just fulfilling helping people,” Bertha said. “You know you go to college and that’s a sign of independence in general, but when you can’t take care of yourself because you don’t have a car, you don’t have any way to take care of yourself. It’s nice to have those resources through college, and it’s free. … It’s a nice service. I like helping people.”
Safe Ride got its start in 2004 as a pilot program and was originally thought of by Greek students who had gone to an alcohol summit, according to University Police Chief Clarence Green. UPD partnered with Greek Life to implement this transportation service in hopes of reducing the amount of DWI’s in Maryville, Missouri.
“At the time, we averaged three fatalities of college students a year within our community as well as we averaged over 200 and some DWI’s,” Green said. “Since we’ve implemented Safe Rides, we’ve reduced those DWI’s by about close to 65% as well as we haven’t had a fatality accident involving a student that was driving a vehicle since then. So it’s been very effective.”
With this, students were able to find a safe way home after being under the influence, working at the library or any other.
From February to April of 2004, Safe Ride drove a total of 337 students home. Now they transport about 27,000 people a year. From July to February, they have driven 15,000 students, according to Safe Ride supervisor and dispatcher Brooke Richards.
Richards has been working with Safe Ride as the dispatcher for almost three years and only took over supervisor since March of last year.
“We keep track of everything down to how many people call per hour per day so that when we set hours for the next semester, we can look at these are popular times,” Richards said. “We need to add some more shift coverage to that or whatever it is to utilize the feedback that we get.”
Changes throughout the years included new vehicles, extra stops, adding on the shuttle services in 2010 and an app for the shuttle routes.
For the fall of 2019, UPD plans on getting an app functioning for the late night taxi service to reduce wait time, which is one of the biggest issues both users and drivers tend to have.
Junior Susan Maharjan has been using Safe Rides since he first came to Northwest. He said he likes Safe Ride for the convenience it provides but that there are a few things he doesn’t like.
“Once I had to experience this, there was only like one Safe Ride or two Safe Rides operating at a time, and I had to wait for almost like 45 minutes for a Safe Ride,” Maharjan said. “Like the waiting time, it only happened once, but I think they can improve that.”
Richards said staffing depends on the night for the taxi service and is based upon the data they’ve collected. Two student employees are required for each vehicle and the dispatch employee.
“For the 2017 to 2018 school year, we had an average late night wait time of approximately 16 minutes, and through operational changes and improvements, we have lowered our average wait time to 9:46 for the 2018 to 2019 school year,” Richards said. “I’m incredibly proud of the work our team has done this year to reduce the wait time, but we are always searching for new ways to continue improving the program.”