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Nite Ride to run all summer despite low ridership

BY NICHOLAS MILLER | JUNE 15, 2012 6:30 AM

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Nite Ride operations were suspended last summer because of low ridership and as an attempt to save money, but this summer, officials say, the service is here to stay.

"Last summer was a trial to see if it would save money, and it didn't," said Charles Green, the assistant vice president for the University of Iowa police.

Because Nite Ride ridership was down to an average of five passengers per night, the service was suspended for the summer season to save fuel and labor costs, Green told The Daily Iowan last summer.

However, at the end of the summer, the UI police found that the suspension made little difference overall.

"We already save some on fuel during the summer season because we have fewer calls [for the Nite Ride service]," Green said.

He estimated Nite Ride provided more than 100 rides during the month of May. He said the service will continue operating even if ridership drops throughout the remainder of the summer.

"We still have a sizable population in the summer with summer classes and camps," he said.

Rides per month drop off drastically in the transition from the spring semester to the summer semester. In April, Nite Ride provided 1,736 rides to female students.

Several females offered opposing opinions of the free service.

"There were times I had cash for a cab and sometimes I didn't, so I would have to walk," said recent UI graduate Mandy VanderWaal. "It definitely provides a comfort if you end up alone without a buddy."

VanderWaal, 22, said she frequently used Nite Ride over the last few years while going to school and living in Iowa City.

"It is really important for going out, but I also needed it for late-night play rehearsals that didn't get out till after 11 p.m.," she said.

The van runs an academic route Sunday through Thursday and a downtown route Friday and Saturday.

Though VanderWaal said she used the service often, Erica Griffith, 21, said she did not have a positive experience.

"I was leaving work late and ended up having to wait for half an hour for them to come," she said. "It was extremely crowded, and then they dropped me off three blocks from my house. In my opinion, that kind of defeats the purpose. It did not make me feel any safer."

"The safety of women is always important," said UI Student Government President Nic Pottebaum. "Cost is always an issue — as long as it is cost feasible, [Nite Ride] should be available all year."

UISG will launch SafeRide — a free emergency cab service for male and female UI students— this fall to further protect both females and males against potential threats when traveling at night.

The service will be contracted between UISG and Yellow Cab. Patrons will be required to show photo IDs before entering and must be riding alone to either their home or the hospital.

The concept of SafeRide was developed last year in response to objections raised regarding Nite Ride's female-only policy.

"The main purpose of SafeRide is to remove students from situations they do not feel safe in," Pottebaum said.


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