Kuntzman: We need a better Safe Ride system

Caroline Kuntzman, Staff Writer

Over the course of this semester, I’ve started using Safe Ride far more than I have previously. On paper, it is a very good service. They are very easily identifiable, meaning it’s virtually impossible for a Safe Ride to be mistaken for another vehicle or vice versa. The app model makes it easy and efficient to use while requiring a Case Western Reserve University login to access the Safe Ride system helps ensure that only students use it. Safe Ride offers students an alternative to walking across campus—or to non-university locations near campus—after dark. This makes it a more holistic service, especially in light of growing safety concerns about areas near campus such as Little Italy. 

However, while the purpose of Safe Ride is necessary, the current execution and efficiency has some issues. An immediately noticeable aspect of those issues is the unpredictability of the safe ride routes. During a ride, where the Safe Ride picked me up at Northside and my destination was near Southside, my Safe Ride stopped to pick up another student in Little Italy. The vehicle then drove back past Northside—which I will note was farther than I was originally was picked up from—to drop them off before going towards my drop-off location. It’s completely reasonable for Safe Rides to pick up additional students between stops; I also consider there to be no inherent problem with dropping students out of the order in which they were picked up, as long as it is efficient from a time and travel logistics standpoint. However, I take issue with the fact that the vehicle I was in went in the wrong direction for my destination to drop off somebody picked up after me. While it is possible that Safe Ride factored in wait time considerations that I did not have access to, I would have preferred for the Safe Ride to pick me up later instead of having me spend unnecessary time in the vehicle.

A second issue I’ve noticed is that arrival times can be very unpredictable. I acknowledge that Safe Ride is a very busy system, especially over the weekend. Drivers’ routes can and should recalculate as students submit ride requests to ensure that the system is working efficiently. With that being said, I do wish that the system better communicated adjusted ETAs for both initial pickup and drop-off with students. This past week, I had a situation where I was concerned that my Safe Ride had arrived and left without notifying me. Based on the original ETA I was given, I expected it would have arrived by that time; yet, when I checked the GPS tracking, I saw what appeared to be the Safe Ride driving away from my address that it was previously approaching. I became very concerned and frustrated, since I received no notification that my Safe Ride arrived, so I considered it unreasonable for the Safe Ride to leave or drive past my pickup spot without notifying me. I ultimately did get picked up, which I appreciated; however, because I didn’t know what was happening with my Safe Ride, I was concerned about whether I would be able to get to my destination. CWRU should evaluate how Safe Ride can better inform students whether their driver’s arrival is delayed or about other route peculiarities that could concern students. 

Safe Rides are a very important student service that should continue to be used by the community. With that being said, the lack of transparency about passengers’ ETAs and illogical routes can make for an unsatisfying user experience. CWRU should work to have the Safe Ride system better communicate with students what they can expect from their route. This should include time components, as this will help students adjust their plans as needed, as well as ensuring the current route calculating system is working appropriately. Creating a better Safe Ride system might encourage more students to use Safe Ride and help better accomplish its purpose of keeping students safe at night.