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DPS Considers Fixed-Route Safety Shuttle

Jules Struck ’19, Associate Managing Editor

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Student Senate President Ian Hower ’16 presented plans to convert the Department of Public Safety (DPS) Safe Ride program from an on-demand taxi service to a fixed route shuttle at the Student Senate meeting on Tuesday, March 1. DPS has developed the plan in response to the decreasing effectiveness of Safe Ride service, as the flood of student demand slows drivers’ response time.

Last year Safe Ride carried out over 13,000 transports, according to Chief of Public Safety Delores Danser.

“We’ve hit the place where the backlog is so great that [fewer] people are going to start to call and ask for service… so we need to make major change, and we know that.”

Danser says as the current Safe Ride program operates as a “free, on demand service. It’s kind of like a free taxi.” The program, which allows students to call the shuttle driver to request a ride to or from anywhere on or around campus, is so in demand that students must wait for over an hour for an opening at peak times.

In response to the ineffectiveness of the program, Danser plans to institute a prescribed route with fixed pick-up times. She says this will eliminate the option to call to request a ride.

“Students won’t have to call, the drivers won’t be answering their phones all the time,” Danser said. “They’ll be concentrating on what they’re doing, and it’s still going to be free.”

Danser drew up a proposed map and shared it with senate for the March 1 meeting.

“We’ve been tweaking the route,” said Danser. “[People have] been out driving it and timing it, to see how long it takes to get from place to place, counting time for pick-ups… we don’t want to do it and publish the schedule unless we know we’re pretty close to being on the money.”

Danser hopes to cut the wait time in half to around 30 minutes on weekdays, and to about 15 minutes on the weekends, thanks to an additional van that is funded by Student Senate.

“That would be pretty darn good,” said Danser.

The planned route will cover the most popular stops, based off of DPS’s records of pick-ups and drop offs, but Danser is “looking for feedback… if students want to suggest some different [places.]” Students will also be able to flag down the vans anywhere along the route.

Student body president Ian Hower ’16, who lead the senate discussion, said DPS will “try out the route in a couple of weeks.” He mentioned also that DPS could benefit from using the larger 15-seat mini-buses instead of vans, to reduce the probability of students not being picked up due to lack of room.

Breahna Pierce ’17, who works as a Safe Ride driver, voiced her concerns for the safety of Safe Ride drivers.

“How are we supposed to be sure we’re picking up Dickinson students?” she asked. Other students argued that the proposed plan would not be helpful for other students not along the route who feel unsafe and need to be picked up.

Students also expressed interest in a tracking device that would make it easier for students to get picked up by the shuttle. One student questioned why DPS could not increase its fleet of Safe Ride vehicles.

“There is a cost associated with [adding more vans] beyond just putting on more vehicles,” Danser said in response, noting that it would require DPS to allocate another driver and staff member to answering phones.

“I have had administrators say, ‘well they can just ride the CAT bus,’ and I say, ‘students don’t ride the CAT bus,’” Danser states. She said that the college Safe Ride will not turn away students who are inebriated.

“The other thing is, honestly the safety shuttle is non-judgmental. If you get on and you’ve had a few drinks, the CAT bus…[is] going to kick you off. We’re just interested in getting you where you need to go safely.

“But,” said Danser, “we can’t keep going where it’s an on demand service.”

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DPS Considers Fixed-Route Safety Shuttle