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In the driver’s seat

By Katharyn Jeffreys

Students are often familiar with the SafeRide shuttle service as a quick, warm way to catch a ride across the Harvard Bridge. However, those most responsible for providing that convenience -- the SafeRide drivers -- are perhaps some of the most overlooked members of the MIT community .

“I love to drive... I’m happy to be here,” said Zachary Roscoe, who has been driving for SafeRide since February 1996. He is also an athletic director for Boston Community Centers out of Mission Hill, and finds driving the van to be a release from the pressures of the day.

Many other drivers also use SafeRide as a part-time job, in addition to work they do during the day. John A. Juppe of Revere has been a SafeRide driver since December 1992, the longest of any of the staff. During the day he is a civil engineer for the Air Force.

Another driver, David Draper, is a clergy member in the Baptist Church. He moved to New England from Florida with his wife, a chaplain on campus. He has been a member of the SafeRide staff for about a year.

Through the students who ride the vans, SafeRide drivers see and hear everything that goes on around campus, and sometimes even tap into news and facts of the many international students’ homelands. “I meet new people and get news from around the world... SafeRide is really an international education on wheels,” Draper said.

Roscoe enjoys having fun with his passengers. “I think my best group is [Zeta Beta Tau]. They sing for me and I sing along with them,” he said.

Driving styles prompt questions on safety

Ironically, the stereotype of poor driving is usually the first thing many students think of when considering SafeRide. “There is probably some small degree of truth in that... Sometimes in our haste to help, we are often in a hurry,” Draper said.

Contrary to the stereotype though, this is not always the case. Juppe is pleased to provide “safety before anything,” a policy which has given him the reputation as the “slow driver.”

Roscoe also believes that safety is important. When he is driving, he takes into consideration the fact that, “Their lives are in my hands.”

Although students sometimes criticize the drivers for their erratic driving or eccentric music choices, Draper asserts that the drivers try to provide a service that is “relatively reliable, mildly personable, and always sociable.”

SafeRide provides useful service

The drivers also stressed the importance of SafeRide to the students, with the hope that more students will take advantage of the service. “Some people don’t understand what it is,” Juppe said. He cited the Logan Airport shuttle as one example of this. Many students are not informed of the $5 shuttle service provided before all major breaks. Another shuttle service that students might not be aware of is the Tech Shuttle which runs during the daytime from Tang Hall to Kendall Square.

Juppe also told the story of two MIT students, who after three years here had yet to go across the river. During their trek out, they got lost and ended up walking out of their way, when they could have taken SafeRide had they known its route.

“I think the students should be grateful for the service they have,” Roscoe said. The program was founded in 1991, and expanded to the current system of four vans in 1993. There are fourteen regular drivers, and four more on call.

SafeRide is currently being evaluated by the Shuttle Committee. The drivers all agreed that larger, fifteen passenger vans are necessary, but that 24-hour-a-day service is not. Roscoe added, “They could have some more stops on the Boston side.” The drivers found that the addition of the fifth shuttle van is helpful during peak use times, and should be employed more frequently during inclement weather.

“SafeRide exists hopefully to make your MIT learning experience just a bit less hectic,” Draper said. He estimated that about 90 percent of students give some word of departure upon leaving the SafeRide van, a trend he is very appreciative of. “Thank you for all your thank you’s and courtesies!”