Safe Ride: One of the Best in the Pac-12


Justin Prather

(Photo by Justin Prather | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Marisa Angulo, Investigative Writer


For students returning home late at night from campus, Safe Ride has been a blessing. With five semesters of it being available to students, the U has established one the best Safe Ride programs of the Pac-12 universities.

Students at the University of Utah have had the luxury to utilize Safe Ride since the fall of 2019. The Safe Ride system’s main purpose is to provide students with a way of safe transportation around campus. It’s advertised as a way for students to get easy transportation anywhere on campus in order to ensure that students do not have to endure an uncertain walk from other parts of the campus at night. It is not a replacement for other rideshare services.

It began as a pilot program that would allow students to request a ride from anywhere on campus. Similar to companies like Uber or Lyft, by using the TransLoc app that can be downloaded on your phone, students can request a Safe Ride anywhere on the U’s campus. At the U, Safe Ride operates from 6 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. MST Monday through Friday.

Chad Larsen, the Associate Director of Commuter Services, notes that Safe Ride averages 52 rides per night. Within the last fall semester alone, Safe Ride provided 4,057 rides. It is evident that the Safe Ride services are being utilized. 

According to the University of Southern California Transportation, their ride program, which is partnered with Lyft, offers seven different pickup locations between 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. After 8 p.m. only three locations on campus are available for students to access. USC’s lack of rideshare locations is concerning as it is located in Los Angeles, where the crime rates are much higher in comparison to the U. 

In the past month, the Downtown Los Angeles Police Department reported 2,040 violent crimes and 3,779 arrests overall. The Salt Lake City Police Department reported only 106 violent and property crimes. That is roughly 19 times more crime reported than in Salt Lake City alone.

“Dancers rely on Safe Ride because we get out of rehearsals anytime from 6:30 [p.m.] to later in the evening, and so when the buses aren’t running Safe Ride is a reliable way to get back up to the dorms on upper campus,” said Emily Clarner, a ballet major at the U. “Safe Ride helps us especially at night when it’s freezing, snowing or rainy.”

 The benefits of Safe Ride have been made clear among students who have used the program. Some students rely on Safe Ride transportation to get them not only to and from places but as a way for them to avoid potential harm or from enduring long periods in the cold winter nights.

In 2019, a student from the University of South Carolina was noted to have mistaken a random man’s car for her Uber ride and was later found dead. According to an article by Michelle Liu, for the Associated Press, “The death cast a national spotlight on ride-hailing safety and led to some changes, including more prominent displays of driver’s license plates.”

The implementation of on-campus carpool services can create a far safer experience than an external company. Unlike the U, other universities affiliate their version of Safe Ride with companies like Uber and Lyft. This may be a cause for concern considering the fact that it may not always be clear to the student if the car they are getting into is the right car.

The U has certain requirements and procedures that Safe Ride drivers undergo before they are able to start giving rides. Larsen detailed that Safe Riders must be current students, have a valid driver’s license, pass a background and drug test. This would ensure that the students utilizing the Safe Ride system are with people who hopefully, have no malicious intentions. 

“[Safe Ride] wants to make sure that you are not driving recklessly … The last class I took was a standard four-hour training, but it is not so bad … we do [trainings] about once a year,” said Owen Brown, a Safe Ride driver. Not only does Safe Ride go through a lengthy application process, but they also require their drivers to know how to drive defensively so they are well prepared to safely take students all across campus.

Complaints about Safe Ride typically come from the fact that it does not operate over the weekend, and that its service hours should be longer.

“Safe Ride doesn’t start running until 6 [p.m.] and in the winter it gets dark around 5,” said Annie Clifford, a Ballet major at the U. “We would have to wait an hour in order to request a Safe Ride and you don’t want to walk in the dark alone. On the weekends for rehearsals or shows the buses [nor] Safe Ride are operating … so we don’t have a way to get to [the] lower campus other than walking and that is pretty far at night.” 

Before Safe Ride came to fruition, campus security could give students rides home late at night. But Safe Ride has become a necessary tool for students because some find it more comforting to be with a driver that is a fellow student, and not Campus Security.

“The thing is, [Campus] Security is usually someone older, and not someone around our age,” said Tayla Chiang, a Biology major. “Then hearing from my friends that are people of color, they don’t like calling campus security because of all the things that could happen with the police. So that’s why people try to avoid calling Campus Security because it doesn’t make them feel as comfortable.”

Even with such positive statements made in regards to Safe Ride, students wish that the Safe Ride program would expand its hours of operation so that students can feel comfortable knowing that they will not be put at risk, stranded on a large campus at night.


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