WUVA News Investigates: Safe or Not-so-Safe Ride?

In the past few years, the University has taken multiple steps to ensure the safety of its students by instituting resources like the UVa. Emergency Notification System, bystander education groups, and community safety training programs, among other resources. One of these programs is “Safe Ride,” an on-demand shuttle service offered by the University to provide students with safe transportation home. According to the University, the goal of the program is to give students a secure alternative to walking late at night or, more generally, walking at times when the University Transit Service is not in operation.

Photo Courtesy: UVa Today

Since arriving on Grounds earlier this fall, many first-year students have reported to WUVA News that they have had trouble using the program. With the University lauding Safe Ride since its expansion of the program in 2016, some students have expressed frustration with what is professed to be a key part of the University’s assurance of student safety.

According to the sixty-seven students who responded to a WUVA News survey posted in the Class of 2021 Facebook group, about 36% would recommend Safe Ride to a friend and, despite the University’s substantial promotion of the program, about 80% of the respondents reported that they had never used it.

According to our survey, the University’s publicizing efforts toward increasing awareness of the program have worked: 100% of survey respondents said that they had indeed heard of Safe Ride.

However, many of these students explained that when they have tried to call the service’s phone number to actually receive a ride, they would hear only a recording that listed the program’s hours of operation and suggested calling 911 in the case of emergency; then they said the call would end.

When we asked students why they did not use the program, this was not the only reason. Among the most popular reasons were that these students had heard the program was not reliable, they did not know how or where to contact Safe Ride, they preferred other forms of transportation, or they have personally had trouble reaching a Safe Ride driver. (Additionally, there are only four Safe Ride vans available at any given time, so the issue could potentially be a shortage of vehicles by which to transport students.)

In response to the survey question – “Do you have any experiences with Safe Ride that you would like to share or any ideas for how the program can be improved?” – we received the following answers:

  • “Last time I ordered one, it took over an hour and a half to arrive. I called at 3am, and there were not droves of people. I gave up waiting and had to call an Uber to get back to dorms. Completely unacceptable.”
  • “They never pick up no matter how many times u call them”
  • “They need to really answer the phone. I’m more than certain that there isn’t high demand for rides on a Tuesday night at 3 am.”
  • “I think the time should be set earlier. One time I really needed to get a friend home and I had to pay for an Uber instead.”
  • “I’ve called over five times and never gotten a ride.”
  • “[Safe Ride should be] more reliable about answering.”

Additionally, 88% of respondents believed that Safe Ride should begin its weekend services earlier. Currently, the program begins running at 2am on weekends.

Source: Parking & Transportation website

We contacted the UVa. Department of Parking and Transportation’s Rebecca White to ask about these concerns. White has been working with the Safe Ride program since June 1st of last year, when Safe Ride switched over from the University Police Department to UVa’s Parking and Transportation Department.

When we asked White about students’ concerns, she responded that the University “[does] not have the same feedback,” and that she had never heard of these problems before.

She asked that students reach out to her or the Transportation Department if they have negative experiences with Safe Ride. “I would love for those people to call me,” she said.

As for the voicemail dilemma in particular, White explained that she would look into the problem. “If there’s something wrong with our recording or the ability to pick up the phone, we need to address that.”

Since WUVA News spoke with White at the start of our investigation, the official said that the Transportation Department has “spent time looking into the functionality of the Safe Ride phone and found that we could improve both the script on the recorded message and the functionality of what happens when someone calls when Safe Ride is not in operation or when the dispatcher is on the line.”

If you would like to report your experiences with Safe Ride in order to improve the program, please take a minute to fill out this very short survey.

For any further information about Safe Ride, please visit their website.

Number to request a Safe Ride: 434-242-1122 (or use Transloc OnDemand)



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