Friday, April 19, 2024

Safe, late-night travel has been a top priority for the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) in recent years. USG hopes to alleviate this issue by providing $5 vouchers for students on their next Uber ride. This initiative, a pilot program funded by USG and Fraternity and Sorority Life, makes travel in Iowa City more accessible, particularly on late nights or in adverse weather.

Jillian Arnold, Jewish constituency senator for USG, finds the number of students struggling with late night transportation alarming. "It was jarring to hear that many students will choose to sacrifice their personal safety to walk home late at night, in the dark, rather than taking an Uber.” Arnold has been working on the collaboration with Uber since last September to iron out the logistics of the vouchers. “To ensure that students are safe on campus and in Iowa City, it is imperative that students have access to affordable and safe transportation at night,” Arnold states.

The program targets high-traffic nights (Thursday–Saturday from 10:00pm to 3:00am), when the university’s other late-night travel service, Nite Ride, is overloaded with an influx of requests. This initiative will help remove the financial barrier to getting home safely and reduce wait times for the Nite Ride program, where riders will find lower wait times from their off-campus, downtown activities. The voucher covers transportation to and from all university residence halls, the downtown area, and major off-campus apartment complexes like the Quarters and Hawks Ridge.

USG Director of Health and Safety, Ahmed Baig, stresses the importance of alleviating congestion on the Nite Ride line. “The goal of this program is that the subsidized ride fees will encourage more students to use Uber for late night transportation rather than wait in the long queues for Nite Ride.” Baig, along with other USG members Jack Carrell and Ben Cooper, has championed this program since the 2022-2023 school year, and believes that the collaboration will solve problems for users of both Uber and Nite Ride. “By providing additional late night transportation options for students, the responsibility of late-night transportation will be divided, compared to previously being solely Nite Ride’s responsibility,” says Baig.

The program hopes to continue expanding its availability, providing vouchers to students redeemable on all nights of the week. Similar programs have found success at Ohio State University and Kentucky University. The legislation passed through USG unanimously, opening the door for a permanent collaboration between the university and Uber in the future.

Jack Carrell, director of finance for USG, has advocated for the collaboration since the previous academic year and oversaw the resolution of logistical issues with previous transportation collaborators. “Our end goal is to meet student demand where we know it already exists.” The program has been met with much excitement from the student body, as over 600 students signed up within 24 hours of the project’s launch.This program, in conjunction with Nite Ride, can help ensure students living on and off campus always have a safe way to get home,” says Carrell.