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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Public Safety seeks rideshare partnership

On+busier+days%2C+the+number+of+escort+calls+can+reach+500.+PHOTO%3A+DANIEL+REMISHEVSKY+%E2%80%9923%2FTHE+HAWK
On busier days, the number of escort calls can reach 500. PHOTO: DANIEL REMISHEVSKY ’23/THE HAWK

St. Joe’s Office of Public Safety and Security is seeking a partnership with a rideshare company to deal with the large number of escort requests during peak times.

Arthur Grover, director of Public Safety and Security, said he has contacted rideshare companies Lyft, Uber and Via to come up with a deal to add free and discounted rideshare options for St. Joe’s students needing rides around campus.

Grover said he is close to a deal with Lyft. The next step is negotiating Lyft’s proposal and coming up with the necessary funding and budgeting for it.

“It’s not exactly the one-on-one model, but it’s a smaller number,” Grover said, referring to the rideshare model service with one driver and one passenger. “It’s four to five and six people when there’s a demand.”

Grover said he aims to deliver the service in a way that leverages the rideshare companies’ resources with Public Safety’s capacity problems.

As an example, from Oct. 3 through Oct. 6, Public Safety received 1,312 requests for escorts. On Oct. 3 alone, there were 437 requests. Grover said most calls or requests for escort services are for two or three people to get picked up, and on busier days, the average number of calls can reach 500.

“One of the trends is that more students at the university are choosing to use off-campus living arrangements,” Grover said. “We follow them into the community, we provide full services including transportation for those students. So, when you have an increase in population, demand increases accordingly.”

Grover said the rideshare partnership would follow a service model of potentially eight to 10 drivers within St. Joe’s campus boundaries offering rides to groups of students.

Last year, Gregory Jones ’19 pitched a rideshare partnership plan called “Hawk Ride” to Grover, members of University Student Senate and Cary Anderson, Ed.D., associate provost and vice president for Student Life.

Hawk Ride is a student escort program that would have worked like Uber or Lyft, where students call a ride from an app on their phone and can track the location and wait time of their driver. Jones proposed staffing the rides with Federal Work Study students who would go through van training and drive students around campus. Jones said administration passed on the pitch ultimately because of liability issues with student drivers.

Jones said he was upset when he heard Public Safety had been looking into partnering with a third party company instead of choosing Hawk Ride.

“The cost is much more expensive than mine,” Jones said. “Mine had control under the students. We didn’t have to worry about strangers driving students around campus. Having a work study student do the work over paying a third party a ridiculous amount makes more sense to me.”

One of the biggest complaints students have about the escort service is wait times. A number of students also told The Hawk that when they have called for escorts, they have been told they will be put on a “wait list.” Sometimes, the escort vans never show up, they said.

Grover said calls come in fast, and when demand for rides increases, wait times increase accordingly. Students could expect to wait an average of 30 minutes or more during these peak times, he said. Grover also denied students are told they are on a wait list and suggested students simply leave out of frustration before vans arrive.

It is the culture of ridesharing apps that has led to students balking at wait times for university escorts and shuttles, Grover said, and that model of service is not feasible with the resources that Public Safety currently has.

Marlaina Pigford ’22 is one of those students frustrated with wait times for Public Safety escorts. Pigford works off campus at Acme in the Bala Cynwyd shopping center, so she takes a Public Safety escort to and from her job.

“Sometimes I get off of work late, like at 11 p.m., and I’ll call and ask for an escort, and maybe 20 minutes after I ask, nobody shows up,” Pigford said. “So I have to call again and ask for another one. After another 20 minutes, I’ll just walk back to campus.”

Colleen Duddy ’20 has also been frustrated by long wait times. Last January, she relied on Public Safety for rides when there was a series of robberies occurring around her off-campus house.

“A lot of times, we called Public Safety, and we would just be looking out our window on the corner of 56th and Overbrook, and we’d see it literally fly by,” Duddy said. “We’d call back, and they’d say to come outside, and they’d still just drive past us. We realize they were probably getting a lot of calls, and they were probably understaffed, but those robberies were happening constantly and we were just trying to be safe.”

Public Safety is also looking into adding tracking devices to Public Safety escort vans, similar to how shuttle tracking works on the SJU Mobile app.

Grover said he has already met with three vendors for GPS modules to deploy in escort vehicles.

“I’m of a mixed mind on it, to be honest, because I think it could increase frustration if you call in and your vehicle is stopping at other places,” Grover said. “But, I’m willing to try anything to improve the service and to give students a better understanding of what we do and how we do it.”

Students such as Pigford said changes like this are necessary because having to walk back to campus at 11 p.m. at night is simply not safe.

For now, Grover recommends students call an Uber or a Lyft over Public Safety if they need a ride to a class or to a meeting in a short amount of time.

“Around rush hour, you can’t leave 10 or 15 minutes before and call us,” Grover said. “There aren’t necessarily multiple vehicles standing by and waiting for your call. Escorts is only one of the hundreds of things we do.”

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