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SafeRide expands services

By Natasha Bhuyan
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, September 2, 2004
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As ASUA SafeRide embarks on another year, program officials say they plan to expand the service through community outreach.

Joshua Wright, director of Associated Students at the University of Arizona's SafeRide, said a main objective for the upcoming year is to establish SafeRide as not only a "nighttime car service," but also as an advocacy program for campus safety.

SafeRide, a free ride safety service for UA students, operates Sunday through Thursday, 6:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. Students who do not feel comfortable walking alone can call for a "safe ride." SafeRide picks up students as far north as East Grant Road and as far south as East Broadway Boulevard. The east-west boundaries for SafeRide are North Tucson Boulevard and North Fourth Avenue.

SafeRide has already given approximately 800 rides this year.

"We can do a lot more with the resources we have," said Wright, a psychology senior. "We could make this amazing."

Although plans are in the preliminary stages, Wright hopes SafeRide will co-sponsor a Campus Safety Fair with other organizations, including the Womens' Resource Center, the Campus Acquaintance Rape Educators, the Oasis Center, UAPD and the Southern Arizona Center for Sexual Assault.

The purpose of the fair would be to educate students on how to keep themselves safe, Wright said. The large-scale programming is intended to target all university students, not just those who utilize SafeRide.

"We want to make the community safer - that's the whole point," said Mirav Dvir, an undeclared sophomore and SafeRide supervisor.

Eric Bareiss, a mechanical engineering junior and assistant director of SafeRide, called the expansion "a step in the right direction."

"It's so much better because you're not safe when you're walking by yourself," said Hillery Kemp, a media arts sophomore, who used SafeRide to get back to her residence hall from McClelland Hall.

In addition to program expansion on campus, SafeRide has extended its northern boundary to East Grant Road instead of East Waverly Street, and also travels to commuter lots for a more centralized location.

Wright, serving as director for a second term, pointed out all changes made to SafeRide are in response to students' suggestions.

Last year, the most frequent complaint from students was the long wait time, said Jason Wood, a SafeRide supervisor and a biochemistry and molecular biophysics senior.

To reduce the problem, SafeRide used part of last year's $100,000 budget to purchased two new cars over the summer, bringing their total to five operating vehicles, since one older car was also eliminated this year.

"With a fifth car, we'll get people where they want to go," said Wood. "Seven to 10 minutes is a good goal for a wait time."

Other changes for the semester include mandatory uniforms for drivers, two additional management positions, fundraising and four free parking spaces provided by Parking and Transportation Services.

SafeRide is primarily funded through ASUA, but the program also receives money from other sources, such as donations. The 2004-2005 SafeRide budget from ASUA is $96,381.

"The first time I heard (about SafeRide), I was like, 'sweet'," said Josh Ringer, a public administration freshman. "I'm rushing for Sig Ep (Sigma Phi Epsilon), so I go back and forth a lot."

Wright, who has spearheaded most of the changes at SafeRide, said SafeRide has become an integral part of his life because of the "important mission of the service."

In fact, Wright proposed to his girlfriend, Melissa Deitch, a senior in elementary education, last May at the SafeRide office.

Deitch, who met Wright while working at SafeRide, said she was called to the SafeRide office during a driving shift. When she arrived, she was greeted by Wright, in a suit and on one knee, and a 22 feet by 18 feet banner, which read, "Melissa, will you marry me?"

"We should leave the reception in a SafeRide car," Deitch said of her July 2005 wedding.

Despite the changes, Wright said the upcoming year will be devoted to increasing outreach on campus.

"I'm going to name my kids "Safe" and "Ride," joked Wright.

Students who want to use SafeRide can call 520-621-SAFE.

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