Lyft gives SafeRide a second wind for safe, late-night transportation

The Center for Student Involvement plans to continue working with Flint Hills aTa Bus to provide accessible rides. (Photo by Julie Freijat | Collegian Media Group)

The Center for Student Involvement announced Tuesday that the campus SafeRide program beginning Thursday is operated by Lyft.

This new partnership will provide all students on the Manhattan campus late-night rides within city limits through the Lyft app from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. Thursday through Saturday nights.

“We’re launching [the program] off with free rides for students just so we can get the word out and get students excited about it,” Kelli Farris, executive director of the CSI, said. “It’ll probably move to just a discounted ride at some point.”

All students enrolled in classes on the Manhattan campus are eligible to enroll in the program launching at 11 p.m. Thursday.

Two emails were sent to students at the Manhattan campus this week, one explaining the program’s parameters and how to request rides using the Lyft app.

Wednesday, the second email was sent from Lyft Business with a link inviting students to activate their Lyft Pass, allowing for free rides up to $10 in certain areas.

“Students will just go in [to the Lyft app] and accept those invites, create their account connecting their K-State email address and those credits will show up in Lyft,” Farris said.

Under COVID-19 regulations, both drivers and the riders are required to wear masks for the duration of any ride.

SafeRide, which is funded by K-State’s campus privilege fee, received a budget cut last year from the Student Governing Association.

“Part of the reason why we went through this process was because we would no longer be able to afford aTa Bus with the budget that SGA approved,” Farris said.

This change is also in response to a student feedback survey from the fall 2019 semester asking about the program and the former operation provider.

“The former system was with Flint Hills aTa Bus, and it had specific routes for SafeRide,” Harris said. “Those routes were different than any of their normal, day-time routes.”

Grace Allen, sophomore in financial management, said the old system was still helpful and easy to use.

“I felt safe and got where I was going without any issues,” Allen said.

Through the survey, however, many students expressed their frustrations with the program. With that in mind, Lyft was selected as the winning bid of a review process to identify potential operation providers.

Farris said while “a lot of students are already utilizing the service anyway,” Lyft was chosen for several reasons beyond just name recognition.

“Ease of use, door-to-door service, and flexibility to adjust the program based on the needs of students in real-time,” were among qualities mentioned in the K-State Today newsletter announcing the new partnership.

An estimated 2,000 students utilized the old system, but with Lyft, the Center of Student Involvement will be able to accurately track every ride a student takes down to the miles and minutes.

Data like this is important to show the CSI how it can adjust to students’ needs. For example, students might like the service to start earlier in the night or run later and account for busier weeks like Homecoming and Fake Patty’s Day, Farris said.

The next item on the agenda for the Center for Student Involvement is to continue working with Flint Hills aTa Bus and continue to provide wheelchair-accessible rides.

“We’re not sure that there are a ton of independent contractors who have wheelchair-accessible vehicles,” Farris said. “So we want to make sure that the program is offered to all students, even those with mobility challenges.”

Since Lyft employees are independent contractors who drive passengers in their personal vehicles, K-State does not need to provide a means of transportation for this service.

Farris said that students could even be hired by Lyft as drivers, potentially providing another income opportunity.

“Once students learn that they can get a free Lyft ride for like five bucks, they’re probably going to take advantage of it,” Farris said.

My name is Sean Schaper, and I'm the news editor for the Collegian. I’m a junior in journalism with a secondary focus in film studies. I grew up right outside of Kansas City in Leawood, Kansas. As a first-generation K-Stater, I look forward to leaving behind accurate coverage for the current and future Wildcat community.