Safe Ride will expand services soon
By Sarah Keightley
Due to especially high demand, the Safe Ride program, a nighttime van service run by the MIT Campus Police to transport students to and from anywhere on campus and any independent living group, will be expanded within the next few months.
The changes will turn Safe Ride into a routed shuttle service with two vans, from the current one-van program that provides rides on demand. Two separate routes will run through designated stops in Cambridge and Boston, according to Undergraduate Association President Stacy E. McGeever '93.
Campus Police Chief Anne P. Glavin said the present Safe Ride program has been "burdened by its own popularity." On some nights there are so many callers that a backlog occurs, forcing riders to wait for up to 20 minutes or more, she said. One dispatcher answers Safe Ride calls, but at peak times -- between 7:30 and 11:30 pm -- one, or even two, more people have to help answer the phones, Glavin added.
Adding a second van and splitting the route in two should alleviate these problems, she said.
Routes will converge
at Building 7
The current Safe Ride system is an on-demand service which students call to get rides. The proposed system would be a shuttle service, where students who want rides would wait at designated stops for a specified time period, during which a van is guaranteed to appear. Two vans will travel separate routes, one circling the MIT campus and the other going by ILGs in Boston. Both vans will stop outside of Building 7, so students who need to transfer from one route to the other can do so.
The Cambridge route will start at Building 7, go by the west campus dormitories, travel down Massachusetts Avenue to Random Hall, circle the main campus, pass by East Campus and Senior House, go up to the Sloan Building and return to Building 7.
The Boston route will start at Building 7 and go around the ILGs in the Back Bay.
According to the campus police, the Cambridge route is 21 minutes long, while the Boston one is 46 minutes long. The Boston route will most likely be about 10 minutes shorter, because organizers are considering having the van driver make stops at Brookline only on request.
McGeever said the new program will hopefully be implemented by the winter. Glavin, who called herself "overly optimistic," believes the new system might begin next month.
New van will
The campus police are currently in the process of buying the second van. Once they do so, the van will be altered to include a campus police radio and the "A Safe Ride" logo painted on the outside. Drivers must also be selected and trained. Glavin said two of the three drivers for the new van have already been hired.
One problem brought on by expansion is "concern about safety levels at different stops," McGeever said. There will be discussions with certain ILGs to see if more lights could be placed outside their houses or if students could wait in their lobbies once the proposed system takes effect.
McGeever predicts that by the end of the year, even more vans will be needed. "[A Safe Ride is] growing practically exponentially." Eventually if the program becomes too large, it may have to be contracted out to a transportation company, McGeever said.
According to mid-year statistics, from April 28 to June 30, 2441 rides were given. The previous escort service, in which campus policemen transported students in their squad cars, offered 2337 rides between Jan. 1 and April 28 of last year.
Glavin attributed Safe Ride's popularity to several factors. Firstly, students are more willing to call a van service than they are to call a police escort. In addition, she said, Safe Ride opened up ridership to students living across the river, while the earlier escort service did not offer rides to the ILGs in Boston. Finally, the UA Safety Council advertised the program widely, resulting in the service taking off "beyond [campus police's] wildest dreams," Glavin added.
McGeever said the present program serves graduate students and staff as well as undergraduate students, resulting in one van per 10,000 people.
Jennifer B. Singer '92, co-chairman of last year's Undergraduate Association Safety Committee which organized the Safe Ride program, said, "I assumed it would be majorly over-subscribed -- it's mushrooming."