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So far, Safe Ride Home program is successful, says UWRF Student Senate

Falcon News Service

February 4, 2016

With the Safe Ride Home Program starting back up again after J-term, Student Senate leaders at UW-River Falls see the first month of use as a success.

The Safe Ride Home Program was passed at Student Senate’s Oct. 20 meeting, designating $5,400 from the Senate funding pool to support a trial run of the program that would start in November and end in March. The program utilizes one taxi from the River Falls Taxi Service and offers students a free ride back to campus or back to their off-campus housing from anywhere in River Falls. The service is currently available from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. Thursday through Saturday and is scheduled to run for 15 weeks, ending in late March.

During the first month of use in December, the program has taken on 139 riders, with 52 of them being students at UW-River Falls, according to Senate Vice President James VandenBergh.

“We really wanted it to take off, which we think it has,” said VandenBergh. “It’s been doing great things so far.”

The taxi during the hours of the Safe Ride Home Program is available for anyone to use, said Korene Burke, manager at River Falls Taxi Service. The only difference is that UWRF students can ride for free with their student IDs during the Safe Ride Home hours, whereas non-students have to pay the usual rate of $2.75 per person.

Burke said that the Safe Ride Home taxi is available to the general public along with UWRF students between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m. because it wouldn’t be right to turn away those who need a ride or people who are with students. Burke gave the example of a group of women at a fraternity house, three of whom weren’t UWRF students.

“What are you supposed to say, tell the three girls they gotta walk or pay? Or tell them walk because it’s only for college students?” said Burke. “We can’t really do that.”

Burke said that there haven’t been any problems with the program so far, with all riders being respectful to the driver and thankful for the free ride.

“In fact, if anything they just talk and talk and talk and talk,” said Burke.

Burke said that the program has been going really well and is a good addition to River Falls, but she believes that Safe Ride Home could be advertised more.

“Because we get a lot of college kids that didn’t even really realize it, it’s kind of going by word of mouth,” said Burke. “I think if some better advertising maybe was out there, we’d get a lot more kids.”

Senate members promoted the program in the University Center when it began, giving out cards with information and a space where students could write their address to give to the taxi driver. Posters advertising the program have also been distributed to residence halls, academic buildings, different restaurants and bars in River Falls, and Greek Life. According to VandenBergh, Senate has no plans to further advertise the Safe Ride Home Program.

Burke also said that she would be in favor of the program expanding to a year-round service, including J-term and summer break. She said that students will always needs a safe ride home, and the consistency of having the program being available throughout the year would help make it a more well-known option for students.

VandenBergh said that Senate will re-evaluate the pilot of the program after the 15 weeks and determine whether it should continue into the next year.

“It’s really done what we’ve hoped it to do and hopefully in the future we can have this program continue,” said VandenBergh.