After a huge explosion of demand that resulted in longer wait times, the University of Arizona’s SafeRide car service has restored itself to pre-COVID-19 capacity to meet the needs of users.
Listed on the Associated Students of the University of Arizona website as “a nighttime alternative to walking alone on campus and in the Tucson community,” SafeRide operates as a free transportation service for members of the campus community that is owned and operated by the school's student government.
Emma Bosworth, SafeRide’s operations director, attributed the increase in demand and subsequent operational issues to the influx of students returning to campus after it was shut down for the 2020-21 school year.
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“We are getting at least triple the amount of rides a night that we were getting during [COVID-19],” Bosworth said.
During the previous year, SafeRide underwent significant downsizing as roughly half of its workforce, which mostly consists of students at the university, either graduated or left campus to return home for remote learning. Because campus was shut down and there were less users requesting rides, it wasn’t necessary for SafeRide to hire new employees.
Wait times also dropped significantly for SafeRide users during this period. Bosworth said that on nights that in pre-pandemic times would have wait times that could be as long as an hour and 45 minutes, users were rarely waiting for longer than 20 minutes for a car to pick them up.
When campus reopened, however, SafeRide was hit with a massive increase in users calling in for rides that overstretched the limited number of drivers and created wait times that lasted up to two hours.
To mitigate this problem, SafeRide has hired new drivers.
Kyle Kline, ASUA’s administrative vice president, said that SafeRide “expanded the team to 20 student employees now.” As a result, wait times are now estimated to rarely exceed 30 minutes.
In addition to hiring new drivers, SafeRide staff have been working to spread awareness of the existence of their service so that students can take advantage of a safe and free transportation option for getting around campus. To do this, Bosworth says that SafeRide attended the UA Club Fair, distributed flyers and updated their website.
Bosworth said that the main purpose of SafeRide is to “make sure that our students are safe.”
To reserve a ride, users can call 520-621-7233 or download the TapRide app, and more information on how to get a ride can be found on the SafeRide website.
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