SafeRide program sees positive reception despite pandemic setbacks, limited use

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Farris said the CSI is looking into more ways to improve SafeRide like working to create designated pickup spots in Aggieville. (Archive photo by Abigail Compton | Collegian Media Group)

Student reception towards the SafeRide program has increased since it partnered with Lyft back in August. The program offers free rides to students from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m., Thursday through Saturday.

Previously operated through the aTa buses, the program switched to Lyft after students voiced frustrations on a survey from the Center for Student Involvement. Kelli Farris, executive director of the CSI, said safety concerns and costs ultimately led to the switch.

“We sent out a survey and a lot of the feedback was ‘I don’t feel safe because I either have to wait at a bus stop for an unknown amount of time … or I get dropped off at a bus stop and then have to walk such a distance to get to my home,'” Farris said.

Students receive door-to-door service through Lyft, and Farris said the overall cost is far less than it was with the aTa buses. The buses charged a standard rate per hour, regardless of student use. With Lyft, the program only pays for students that use the service.

“I can look at a report and see, ‘Oh, this many rides were claimed by this many students and this is how much we spent,'” Farris said.

Based on analytics gathered and provided by the CSI over the past year, around 1,599 rides have been claimed by 598 unique riders. This suggests many students have used the service more than once. The program has an 89 percent promoter score in terms of student recommendation and a 78 percent promoter score for ride experience.

Farris said the estimated cost of the program per year was around $20,000. According to analytics, the program has only spent $13,000, with average ride costs around $8.61. Farris said COVID-19 restrictions and remote learning are most likely factors in the limited use.

“It’s very different in a normal semester, so I’m excited for what that will look like and how quickly SafeRide will take off during that,” Farris said. “Right now, knowing that we have about two rides per student, I can imagine that that’s gonna just spread it out even more across campus.”

Farris said she hopes SafeRide will expand so students can use the service any day of the week, giving them safe transportation home from late-night study sessions or work.

“Obviously, I’m not gonna ask students to pay more in privilege fee in order to cover that, so we’ll start identifying some different donors … to help cover some of that,” Farris said. “That’s one thing students have asked for fairly regularly … so that’s one thing that we would love to explore and try to figure out what’s next there.”

Farris said the CSI has monthly meetings with Lyft to talk through operational updates or issues. She said this direct line of contact makes it easier to voice concerns.

“There had been a couple of instances where students felt a little odd with their driver,” Farris said. “We can pull all of the ratings that riders give their drivers and then meet with Lyft to kind of talk through, ‘What’s the issue with this particular driver?’ or whatnot.”

Natalie Walters, pre-veterinary student, has used SafeRide twice since its partnership with Lyft — most recently around the end of April. She said the wait times were short and the drivers were nice on both occasions.

“I think it’s a really great way to combat drinking and driving, so I appreciate that aspect,” Walters said over email. “I do think it could be better advertised, though. I have told multiple students about it that had no idea it existed.”

Adalynne Haresnape, sophomore in kinesiology, has never used SafeRide and said she knows very little about the program. She said she remembers receiving emails about the partnership with Lyft but doesn’t know anyone who has actually used it.

“I mean, I got emails about it, but most people don’t really check their emails,” Haresnape said, “and I deleted most the emails — all the emails about it honestly.”

Haresnape said she has never needed to use SafeRide, but wasn’t opposed to using it if other options weren’t available. She said the Thursday through Saturday window makes sense, but depending on student use, she could see the benefit in extending those hours.

“I don’t know anyone personally that has used it in the last year,” Haresnape, “That’s not probably the best sample of K-State students, but I wouldn’t think very many [have used SafeRide] because it’s not super advertised.”

Farris said the CSI is looking into more ways to improve SafeRide, like working to create designated pickup spots in Aggieville and adding aTa bus routes to the Lyft app.

“We’ve started to get reached out to by other campuses interested in how we make it happen,” Farris said. “We used to be that school, reaching out and looking at other campuses, and now all of the sudden we’re that school, so that’s kind of nice. Means we must be doing something right.”

The SafeRide program will continue running through next weekend before going on hiatus for the summer. For students interested in using the SafeRide program but who are unsure how it works, a how-to video is available on the CSI website.

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