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Chizen '14: SafeRide's makeover

Brown University SafeRide is a failed institution. From personal experience, SafeRide proves to be inefficient and simply ineffective in providing its potential users with safe and accessible transportation throughout campus. Given Brown's condensed campus, the shuttle's route is overly circuitous. The University is more than overdue to create a committee composed of undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and community members to scrutinize SafeRide and concoct a plan to fix it, alter its function or potentially terminate its existence.

First, we must question whether there is a large enough demand for SafeRide on campus. Brown is rather small, with its buildings densely packed among just a handful of city blocks. Students hardly ever walk more than 15 minutes to travel from one location to another, and that's only on the most extreme commutes. Those who reside off-campus might have to walk further, though biking is a sufficient and healthy alternative. Schools across the country do have shuttles that enable students to travel from their dorm to class, such as the Circulator at Washington University in St. Louis, or the Tiger Tram at Princeton. These schools, however, are physically much larger that Brown, and students actually utilize bus services. At Brown, on the other hand, SafeRide is only active during the evenings and are not accessible to students during the day. After all, Brown has a city campus, and students never genuinely need to rely on a van to return to their dorm. Ultimately, SafeRide really only benefits graduate students and faculty who travel downtown to the medical school, and they utilize the Downcity and South Main Express shuttles that operate during the day.

While crime has increased in recent months, SafeRide doesn't promote a safer environment at night, despite its mission statement claiming to provide safety-oriented transportation services. Since there are limited vans traveling along an inefficient route, students must wait up to 23 minutes for a van to arrive, according to the service's real time online map. While waiting at shuttle stops, students are vulnerable to robbery or mugging. Too many times have I wanted to travel in a SafeRide vehicle back to my dorm at night, only to be told that the van is not at an official stop or that it is only for on-call riders, who must be preregistered and live in certain areas off campus. While the new texting service that enables students to locate vans via phone is helpful, it doesn't solve the wait time and simply encourages students to walk if the van is far from their location.

The failings of SafeRide should be utilized as a foundation to build a new and improved transportation service at Brown. First, the University should keep SafeRide's original transportation services to and from the Alpert Medical School, as it provides a valuable service for the plethora of medical students and faculty who use it on a regular basis. On-campus transportation should be the focus of the majority of the changes.

Through surveys and research, the University needs to determine whether students actually desire transportation here on College Hill in the first place. If they don't, the University should strongly consider abolishing the Brown Campus Shuttle and allocating the funds used for it elsewhere, such as improving residential facilities. If students do indeed value a campus transportation system, the shuttle route should be altered, with the van following a more direct route. For example, there ought to be two vehicles traveling opposite directions along a loop from Wayland Arch to the Rockefeller Library, then to Pembroke Campus via Brown Street, across Thayer Street to the Olney-Margolies Athletic Center, down Hope Street to Barbour Hall and finally back to Wayland Arch. The current route is similar to this, but makes unnecessary stops at places like the Department of Public Safety that clearly add minutes to the wait time. This route should take no more than eight minutes, a reasonable time to wait for a shuttle going each way. Or, depending on student desires, maybe there ought to be a van from Wayland Arch and Faunce Arch to the OMAC - a gym shuttle. Results might also suggest that students should be able to ride SafeRide during the day, traveling from their dorm to classrooms that are farther away, such as those on Pembroke campus.

Ultimately, anytime Brown SafeRide is mentioned in conversation, it has a negative connotation. A myriad of students have never used it, some have ridden it only to be taken on a inefficient journey around College Hill that takes longer than walking, while others have been rejected due to not being at an official stop. It's time for a change, and the University needs to inquire why this system has failed so many students. Brown has always been a campus focus strongly around its students. The administration must question systems that students complain about, with the intent to make them stronger. Until then, SafeRide will continued to be a symbol of inefficiency on campus.




Steven Chizen '14 is investing in a DPS Segway to remedy the SafeRide problem. Rides can be scheduled by emailing 



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