As the campus focuses increasingly on issues of safety, many students report that they are dissatisfied with SAFE Rides, Duke's nighttime transportation service. Administrators say they are currently evaluating the program and expect to have a plan of action later this spring.
Although officials report that use of the service has not increased in recent weeks, students expressed concern with SAFE Rides' promptness, willingness to pick up during scheduled bus hours and limited off-campus drop-off locations.
"We have been very busy this year in general," said George Sellars, SAFE Rides supervisor. "I think that most students were already aware of safety risks; those risks have just been given more attention." Sellars said some students mistakenly expect the service to duplicate the bus system or serve as a taxi service.
Senior Carrie Johnson, Duke Student Government vice president for community interaction, said she has been satisfied taking SAFE Rides to her Central Campus apartment, but believes there is confusion about the purpose of the service.
"I think there needs to be some clarification as to whether it is an after-hours service primarily for those off campus or whether it is a campus security measure," Johnson said. "Right now, many students are frustrated with the University's response to their safety concerns; it might be a good time to look into redefining escort services."
SAFE Rides is currently under review, said Cathy Reeve, director of parking and transportation.
"Our evaluation includes ridership patterns, response times, etc. We anticipate concluding the study and having some recommendations after spring break," Reeve said.
Many students said they find several aspects of the current service unsatisfactory. For example, freshman Courtney Kraus said she was recently left at the hospital, where she volunteers.
"I called SAFE Rides around 10 p.m.," said Kraus. "I waited about 25 minutes before I called the campus police for a ride home."
Students living off campus were particularly concerned with SAFE Rides' limited service area.
"Many students choose to live off campus because of financial constraints, and it is wrong for SAFE Rides to pick and choose, almost arbitrarily, where they will and will not go," said junior Brad Friedman, who lives off campus.
Sellars said the boundaries of the off-campus service area were determined by a committee at the program's inception in August 1994. He added that no current SAFE Rides employees have any say in where they can drive. "I expect there are people talking about expanding the service area," Sellars said. "I don't know of anything concrete right now, but the boundaries could potentially be redone."
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Johnson stressed the importance of seeing Duke as an urban campus, and addressing the same safety concerns that would be expected at any urban school.
"If we were in New York City, people wouldn't consider walking home--they would take a cab. Students should know it is no different here in Durham," said Johnson. "The University should place the same emphasis on safety that it does on academics."