The Arizona Desert Lamp

Safe Ride director: Opt-in fees ‘the perfect solution’

Posted in Campus, Politics by Connor Mendenhall on 6 April 2009

Attaching a nominal user fee to the popular SafeRide service would eliminate the program’s annual budget struggle and reduce the fee burden on most UA students, as I argued last month. But don’t take it from me! Listen to BRS, the ex-Safe Ride director who replied to the proposal in the comments this week:

As a former administrator of ASUA Safe Ride, I could not agree more with your argument. I was extremely impressed by your article, since when people usually write their opinions regarding Safe Ride they are horribly misinformed and lack any basic understanding of the actual management of the program or the issues involved. You, sir, have a very balanced understanding of the situation.

For over a year and a half the program’s inability to meet its growing demand was a constant struggle for me. We expanded exponentially (well, as much as we could with ASUA hovering over us and requiring three levels of approval on every penny spent) and made great progress, but still weren’t keeping up with demand. The more efficient we got, the more demand would increase due to shorter hold times and vehicle response times. And now, with the current budget crisis, Safe Ride is at a near standstill. They cannot meet the current demand, let alone future demand, yet they cannot expand or even continue to operate at the same level without steady funding.

All the while, as Safe Ride receives nightly complaints about hold times or vehicle response times, students are crying out to eliminate student fees! Do they realize how Safe Ride is funded??? Yet I completely understand the dilemma a non-Safe Ride user faces – why should I be paying for other students’ rides with my tuition money? It makes absolutely no sense.

A small optional fee for any student that wanted the option of using Safe Ride would be the perfect solution. You can opt in or out at the start of each semester, and that determines whether or not you are eligible to use the service. This would of course present an administrative challenge to Safe Ride operators, but I believe it could be easily overcome. If Safe Ride were provided with a database of the Student ID numbers of all students who opted into the program and paid the fee, Safe Ride operators could ensure that callers were eligible. Callers would give their Student ID over the phone, the operator enters it into a simple program to check for the number in the database, and if it’s there, business as usual. If not, call back and press ‘4′ to be directly connected with a cab company!

This may slightly increase the time spent speaking to each caller, but with your predicted decrease in calls, this wouldn’t be a problem at all. I think it would be a sensible, logical solution to the problem of an under-supplied free good that would allow the program to be sustained (and expand as demand required) at the same time it increases the appreciation of its users. Yet of course something so logical and so economically sound will, alas, never be implemented by the likes of ASUA.

As long as legal issues didn’t get in the way, it would be even easier to collect a user fee by simply asking each safe rider to give the driver two bucks. No database needed, no paperwork to opt out of the fee each semester, and very little administrative overhead. A pay-per-use fee for Safe Ride–or even an opt-in one, as suggested above–would benefit both Safe Ride users and students at large. The folks who run Safe Ride recognize this. Will your student government do the same?

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2 Responses

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  1. mclicious said, on 6 April 2009 at 2:18 pm

    Legal issues would get in the way, I think, for the same reason that we’re not allowed to collect tips. We’re government employees. And, frankly, the last thing I want to do while I’m trying to calm disgruntled passengers or trying to figure out whether Drunky McSlut Greek is stealing a ride or not is deal with making change or something. Your comment comes from my “anonymous” ex-boss, but I think we all sort of feel the same way. But the fee is going to have to be higher, to account for the extra work that comes from dealing with money. It will take a lot of money to keep Safe Ride expanding at a decent rate, whether we go for pay or not.

    I do appreciate that while you’re all the way in Turkey, Connor, you seem to have a much better grasp at how Safe Ride works than any of the senators, whose candidate statements during elections were completely asinine, misinformed, and full of grammatical mistakes.

    –Hannah

  2. Connor Mendenhall said, on 6 April 2009 at 4:40 pm

    Hannah,

    Yeah, I can sympathize with the driver’s perspective–and it’s a real shame you can’t put out a tip jar. There might be room for some sort of compromise, say a mealplan charge via CatCard swipe, or payment over the chip used for printouts and washing machines (though that one might be even more trouble than cash). It’s also true that a fee might reduce demand for Safe Ride, and thus employment of Safe Ride drivers. But with a stable source of funding, and some sort of workable fee system, the lives of student employees might be much easier, too.


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