SafeRides to launch app in the fall


The Daily Illini File Photo

Students board a CUMTD bus at Transit Plaza. MTD’s SafeRides plans to launch its own app in August.

By Cori Lippert, Staff Writer

SafeRides hopes to launch an app in August that streamlines its pickup service, but it has no plan to expand its service boundaries.

Jacob Rajlich, sophomore in Engineering and Illinois Student Government transportation representative, said the app would allow drivers to see routes on a GPS and to plan drop-offs and pickups better. This may cause people to be on the bus longer, but they will be in a safe location.

Rajlich said SafeRides was created in the ’90s by the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District to be a campus service.

“The SafeRides system is on top of everything else, and one of the big things that MTD points out all the time is that every one of our rides is a safe ride, whether you are on a bus or in one of the dedicated SafeRides vehicles,” Rajlich said.

SafeRides currently has an average of 135 riders per night on weekdays and about 100 riders per night on the weekends, said Evan Alvarez, planner at MTD.

According to the MTD website, the expected waiting time for SafeRides is 15 minutes during the week and up to 30 minutes on the weekend, when demand is higher.

“Sometimes I would call them and they just wouldn’t come, and I’d be standing there forever, and I’d just end up walking. But, most of the time I would say they were reliable,” said Julia Donnamario, junior in AHS.

Donnamario took SafeRides two or three times per week while she was working at the ARC, with an average waiting time of between five and 10 minutes.

MTD is also working on an interface with the app that will give every user an MTD bus route nearby, instead of leaving users in the dark, Rajlich said. The app may also inform the user if they are near a bar and cannot be picked up at that location.

Alvarez said SafeRides doesn’t pick up outside of bars because of drunk and disorderly issues, which makes it more difficult to transport people.

The current SafeRides boundaries extend to University Avenue to the north, Vine Street to the east, Windsor Street to the south and State Street to the west, he said.

“While everyone in the community can use SafeRides, generally the further we go, the more difficult it is to keep it a time-sensitive service,” Alvarez said.

There is currently no discussion about extending SafeRides boundaries, Alvarez said, but they are always open for feedback.

The SafeRides buses also do not pick up at fixed bus routes, Alvarez said. However, the routes change as the night goes on and the drivers are aware of these changes, so they will start picking students up along these routes.

Donnamario said SafeRides reaches her apartment on Springfield, so she never had a problem with the boundaries, but she thinks it would be beneficial for other students if SafeRides extended its services further off campus.

Rajlich said there would be a lot of great things that would happen if SafeRides expanded, but expansion would also cause some issues. MTD would have to increase its drivers and operators, which would raise the cost of SafeRides.

Right now, students are paying for 35 percent of the cost of the SafeRides services, with the rest coming from the downstate operating assistance program, he said.

Students are paying for SafeRides through a transportation fee included in tuition, which is set at $62 per semester this year.

“If you expanded it into the community more, the question(s) would arise (of), ‘Is this for the community, is this for the University and who should pay for this?’” Rajlich said.

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