Safe Ride hours too limited, need more funding
When I first came to the UA for orientation, Safe Ride was vaunted as a service that I could use to get around late at night if I was scared or if I didn’t feel comfortable walking home after a party. If I was lucky, and asked nicely enough, it could even take me to Fry’s.
Students commonly believe that Safe Ride is meant to be a designated driver service or an alternative to calling a cab.
“I thought Safe Ride was a free taxi service for students, but especially for those people that are in no position to drive or even find a taxi, like people who come from parties on Saturday,” said Christina Duran, a freshman studying pre-journalism and political science.
Misconceptions like Duran’s are far from what Safe Ride does, since it does not even operate on Saturday and closes early, at 9:30 p.m., on Friday.
Sarah Early, the operations director of Safe Ride, said the program helps more than 400 students every night it operates.
“[Safe Ride] is by far the most visible thing that ASUA does, because we’re there every night for six and a half hours, you see our cars all over town, people know who we are,” Early said. “We affect 1 percent of the University of Arizona every night.”
But it needs to be there for students late on Friday and Saturday too.
Amanda Lester, the administrative vice president of the Associated Students of the University of Arizona, said, “A lot of people don’t think it fits with their idea of Safe Ride, because a lot of people think Safe Ride [is for] after parties, or if they’re out at night, but that wasn’t its original intention at all.”
She said Safe Ride is for giving students a ride to their dorms or houses after studying late rather than giving them a ride home from the bar.
No one is disputing that transporting students to and from the library helps keep them safe and that taking students to buy groceries is convenient, but that shouldn’t be Safe Ride’s only function, and it doesn’t change the fact that I’ve been uncomfortable walking back to my dorm late on a Saturday and couldn’t get safe transportation.
Safe Ride has been able to make a mark with what little funding it has, but its limited hours frequently leave students without a safe way to get home.
“It would be more effective if Safe Ride was open later,” said Maddie McKenzie, a freshman studying business and art. “I feel like weekends are the most common time for kids to be out late and at risk.”
When you compare SafeRide to Arizona State University’s similar program, Safety Escort Service, its shortcomings become clearer. The Safety Escort Service is open from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m., longer than Safe Ride, and every day of the week, including Saturday.
What’s more, the Safety Escort Service is funded by the Associated Students of Arizona State University, its student government. If ASASU can get its act together and provide the money for safe transportation eight hours a day, seven days a week, then what’s stopping us?
It’s not that Safe Ride officials have some horrible aversion to operating later on Fridays and on Saturdays; Safe Ride simply lacks the funding to stay open during these times. Currently, the program receives $140,000 a year from the Student Services Fee, as well as $60,000 directly from ASUA. To increase the hours of operation, Safe Ride would need roughly $50,000 more per year, according to Early.
“Obviously, the demand for Safe Ride is there,” Early said. “We don’t have the supply.”
If Safe Ride “loves safety” as its website so declares, then safety shouldn’t take a break. Students should be able to enjoy themselves on Friday and Saturday nights without worrying about how they will get home. With more funding, Safe Ride will be able to provide what it should be focusing on: a safe way for students to get home, every day of the week.
Elizabeth Eaton is a pre-journalism freshman. Follow her @liz_eaton95.