Students Plan New Safe Ride ScheduleBy Vipul Bhushan
A new route and timetable for the Safe Ride program will take effect on Monday. The new system is based on the work of seven undergraduates who studied the system in Transportation Laboratory (1.102).
According to Anne P. Glavin, chief of Campus Police, the new routes and schedules will be evaluated over the summer and revised by the fall.
The class project was described as excellent by class instructor Thomas F. Humphrey, principal research associate at the Center for Transportation Studies. It was also well received by the administration. Glavin commended the work, and credited the students and the Graduate Student Council with providing the catalyst for the Safe Ride changes.
Stephen D. Immerman, director of special services, added that the students' work has also saved MIT "thousands of dollars in consulting fees."
Concern about problems with Safe Ride surfaced in the GSC's Housing and Community Affairs Committee after the murder of Yngve K. Raustein '94 early last fall, according to committee co-chairmen Jonathan D. Baker G and Chin Hwee Tan G. Safe Ride was "being poorly utilized," Baker said.
The GSC discovered that many students do not use Safe Ride because it does not have a regular schedule when it examined the results of a safety survey conducted last Registration Day. Almost half of the respondents had never used Safe Ride, and another quarter only used it a few times per year, according to survey results.
Cuthbert suggested project
David S. Cuthbert, GSC vice president, suggested the project to the class. He served as mentor to the student project and also worked with the administration to see the plan realized.
Baker and Tan spoke with Glavin and Immerman in November. Glavin and Immerman initially wanted to hire outside contractors to suggest improvements to Safe Ride, but "we thought we could do it faster and sooner and cheaper," Baker said. He also thought they would have "more influence over the project."
Cuthbert later suggested the idea to the class. Seven students adopted the project and proceeded to ride the vans to collect data and formulate suggestions for schedule and route improvement.
"The administration is taking this seriously," said Cuthbert. He and the class group made an interim schedule, which they presented to Immerman in March. The interim schedule was implemented in April, along with some minor route modifications, such as the addition of a stop at the Kendall Square T station on the Cambridge route and one at the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Beacon Street on the Boston route, said Cuthbert.
The Safe Ride service is expanding and evolving, Immerman said. Seven thousand people used the Campus Police on-call escort service annually before the advent of Safe Ride, but last year's total van ridership was over 55,000, Glavin said. Both Glavin and Immerman described the service as a "victim of its own success."
The students made suggestions to expand the service, including the addition of airport service before holidays and daytime service during the winter. Immerman cited cost as the major factor limiting Safe Ride service expansion, saying that current operating expenses exceeded $250 thousand annually.
All those involved with Safe Ride stressed the importance of maintaining Safe Ride as a safety service and not a convenience shuttle. Speed will be sacrificed in favor of dependability, Cuthbert said. He also hopes that drivers would be more diligent in following the schedule.
Suggestions to expand Safe Ride to daytime or extensive off-campus service "are above and beyond what the campus police should be worried about," Glavin said.
These expansions will probably not be made in the near future, Immerman said. However, "sooner or later, we will have a full-blown [shuttle] system," he said.