SafeRide sees more than 23,000 passengers in 2017

Tyrus Pavicich

Editor’s note: This story is part of a partnership publication between the Iowa State University Department of Public Safety and the Iowa State Daily to provide perspective about the status of safety on campus and the initiatives the department worked on in 2017. 

After staying at the library until far too late cramming for a test surrounded by empty coffee cups and books galore, Iowa State students are then faced with the unpleasant task of sleepily stumbling across campus roads in an effort to make it home unscathed.

Cue SafeRide, a service provided by the Iowa State University Department of Public Safety that offers students free rides between any university-owned locations. 

The program employs students known as community service officers (CSOs) who operate parking division vehicles for SafeRide between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m., during which time they continually ferry students across campus.

“On a five-hour shift, you’ll probably pick up about 15, on a 10-hour shift 30-35,” said Sid Lederman, a CSO who has driven for SafeRide since October. 

Drivers took more than 23,000 passengers on 18,495 trips in 2017 alone, a number boosted by the release of the SafeRide app at the beginning of the 2016 fall semester. 

The app was important because drivers initially had used radios to receive assignments from police dispatch, adding additional strain to the department’s system, Lederman said.

For riders, the app is easy to use: after logging in with a valid Net-ID, ordering a ride is as easy as dropping two pins on the map and submitting a request. 

The ride information is then sent to tablets in SafeRide vehicles, through which drivers accept trips and receive information necessary to find and transport riders.

The program looks a lot like a free version of services such as Uber, but DPS consistently reminds students of the key differences between them. 

First, vehicles only run between campus owned and affiliated properties such as residence halls and campus buildings. More importantly, though, the program is meant to assist students with safety, not to bring them home from the bar.

“The police really try to get it out there that we are not your Uber,” Lederman said. “We are here as a safety service. If you are intoxicated, you should find another ride.”

He recalled a coworker’s story about an intoxicated man who got in his car at an intersection and asked for a ride. In situations like that, “the CSO is gonna call it in and let dispatch know what’s going on,” Lederman said. “Then it’ll be up to the discretion of dispatch.”

That’s because CSOs serve as the eyes and ears of ISU police while they’re on the road, alerting them about crime and potentially unsafe situations. 

Lederman’s primary focus as a CSO is working to make Iowa State a safe and welcoming place, and he views SafeRide as an important addition to campus well-being.

“Having someone not walk in the dark alone is definitely a plus,” Lederman said. “Being able to give somebody a safe ride from point A to point B without them having to worry about anything happening to them is good.”

Iowa State student Jonathan O’Neill, who is a sophomore in management, joked that he had ridden with Lederman at least three times in the same day, adding that he tries to use SafeRide as much as he can.

“It’s pretty convenient. The word just says it all. It’s safe.” O’Neill said. “When it was cold, it was good to use the SafeRide to get to places because the roads and sidewalks were slippery. Walking by yourself at night, you didn’t feel comfortable.”

As a service to Iowa State students, SafeRide aligns with the ISU police’s goals of ensuring campus safety and allowing students to feel comfortable by providing free, no-questions-asked rides between campus-affiliated locations.

Students can order a SafeRide between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. by using the app or by calling Iowa State police dispatch at 515-294-4444.