Students leaving for spring break can now pay for shuttle service to the airport with their FLEX accounts.
Beginning March 1, Auxiliary Services' partnership with Charlene's Safe Ride, a one-and-a-half-year-old company, to provide shuttle services payable by FLEX accounts came to fruition.
The two-year contract has been in negotiation for a year, primarily hindered by liability issues, and includes a trial period to determine the demand for the service.
"It provides a convenient way to get around the Triangle and see everything it has to offer," said David Majestic, director of planning for Auxiliary Services. "The problem has been in providing the risk management services that Duke wanted."
Majestic said that the idea of putting taxi service on FLEX points has existed since the mid-1990s, but there has been difficulty in finding the right vendor. Taxi services have difficulty meeting the designated safety requirements.
Taxi service requires less in insurance coverage than shuttle service - $30,000 for taxis as opposed to $1.5 million for shuttles.
Only shuttle service, which consists of minivans that seat seven passengers, and not taxi service, is payable by FLEX. Students are charged flat rates according to zones of travel and the number of passengers, rather than by meter. Only one FLEX account may be used to pay for the service.
The shuttle company may also charge for waiting time, which can delay the pickup of others.
"The service sounds like a good idea from what I've heard about it. So many students use taxis to go to the airport and on the weekends," freshman Brenna Benson said. "It would make sense to have taxis on FLEX."
Bell Belahouel, in charge of Charlene's Safe Rides, coordinated the contract with Majestic. He said he has noticed that students sometimes do not have cash with them, and explained that this was one of the reasons he decided to participate in the program.
"Hopefully this is a better service that meets the convenience needs," Belahouel said. "Our main goal is to provide high quality service."
The company has been aware of student demand for convenience in the past and has used cards for prepaid service. Students may pay for the cards with FLEX, but cannot receive refunds on them in cash.
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Students agreed on the ease of the new system. "It's a good idea because students don't carry cash ever," said senior Hillary Fowler, who also thought the plan might help the safety of those drinking off campus. "It's suspicious as to whether the service is to prevent driving under the influence."
Junior Matthew Slovik, a DSG presidential candidate who initiated recent dialogue about the service, said it is one way to address increasing safety concerns as the social scene continues to move off campus.
"It's going to be a solution to some of the problems we've been running into. If not the solution, it certainly ameliorates the condition," said junior Clifford Davison, DSG vice president for facilities and athletics.