Misuse of safe ride brings operating hour changes, frustration from students

Emily Broyles, Reporter

Mountaineer Safe Ride changed its operating hours this semester, leaving some students confused and frustrated with the transportation system. Students’ misuse and dependency on safe ride in recent years has left App State’s public safety department feeling the same. 

According to App State’s parking and transportation website, “The mission of the Appalachian State University Mountaineer Safe Ride service is to provide safe and secure transportation for students during the evening hours.” 

Safe ride now operates from 9:45 p.m. to 2:45 a.m., starting two hours later than it did last year. This is also the same time buses stop running during the week, except for Night Owl Routes.

  Director of Public Safety and Chief of Police Andy Stephenson said safe ride is focused on helping students who feel unsafe walking on campus at night, especially when buses are not running. He said those who abuse the system and name it a “taxi service” have caused safe ride to reevaluate how it operates.

“We’re taking groups of athletes to dinner. We’re taking groups of people to the edge of campus, so they can go to their off-campus party,” Stephenson said. “You’ve got four to six people with you; why are you calling safe ride?”

Stephenson said while this year the transportation system has dealt with misuse, last year’s operating hours brought this misuse to light.

“It’s not sustainable in the shape it was in when we inherited it. Last year we were running 500 calls a night for a ride. There’s no way all of that has something to do with safety. It’s people who don’t want to walk because it’s raining or want to walk because it’s cold,” Stephenson said.

Stephenson said public safety has seen a drop in ridership and calls to safe ride after AppalCart Night Owl routes were introduced earlier in the year, which run Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. 

Regan Duke, a former safe ride employee, said most calls came in between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m last year. She said employees are not as affected by the change in operation hours, but it can be “slightly sucky” for students.

“It can be scary for some people to have to walk across campus at night by themselves and safe ride is a great solution,” Duke, a sophomore religious studies major said. “It is unfortunate that some people abused safe ride and just used it as a taxi for them and all their friends, or an excuse to not have to walk.”

Summer orientation and word of mouth taught freshman Hunter Kendrick that safe ride will assist students for reasons besides safety, such as transportation to on-campus locations.

“I don’t know many people that use safe ride for emergencies,” said Kendrick, an accounting major. “Sometimes it’s cold outside and I don’t want to walk to (West Campus). I live on (East Campus).”

Kendrick said he only uses AppalCart to get to the Leon Levine Hall of Health Sciences for classes. He said while he feels entitled to use safe ride for whatever reason, he understands that safety comes first and wants safe ride to inform students on who the transportation should be meant for.

“Sometimes you call safe ride and you have to wait 20 minutes because people are using it for an unintended purpose,” Kendrick said.

Stephenson said with the options of late night AppalCart hours and safe ride driving passengers who legitimately feel unsafe, the culture of the transportation system in Boone is slowly changing. 

“Safe ride’s an important thing to me. There are students who do have legitimate fears about (walking on campus alone at night) and we want to be there for them,” Stephenson said. “I just want it to be what it was meant to be and not catered to groups of people who really are just too lazy to walk.”