A shrinking staff is what senior Jonathan Connolly has seen throughout his four years volunteering for Safe Rides, a volunteer-based student-run organization that provides free late-night transportation to Elon University students.
“You don’t know what you have until it’s gone,” Connolly said.
Before the organization discontinued, Connolly was a student captain. Safe Rides was the first organization Connolly joined when he came to Elon, but he says there has been a major change in the organization since he started.
“It actually got to the point where we had so many captains we had to limit the days that people could volunteer,” Connolly said. “What we have seen from our statistics is there has been a decrease in ridership with our program.”
This fall, the organization only had five members on their executive team — in comparison to the 15 that Connolly had his freshman year. The limited staff led to the program’s end.
The announcement of the end of Safe Rides came through a community-wide email from Jon Dooley on Friday, Sept. 6.
“The decision was made due to ongoing challenges for the student-run group that include declining demand for the service as ride-sharing companies have grown in popularity, and an ongoing struggle to recruit student leaders,” wrote Dooley in his email.
The program has been driving for more than 25 years, after starting in 1992 following the death of a student who was driving under the influence.
Since then, Safe Rides’ goal has been to provide secure transportation to all students for free.
Connolly says that Safe Rides has been a big part of his college experience. Senior Kinsley Cuen shares the same sentiment and says that it is a program she will miss.
“I do think it has been a very nice safety initiative for all students, and I think it prevents a lot of potential DUI’s. But I do not think there was a lot of advertising for volunteers either and I do think that is something that would have really improved that,” Cuen said.
A common issue with Safe Rides was the length of time it would take to pick up students, especially with the competition from growing share-riding companies such as Uber and Lyft.
Freshman Dominica Mortello, who never had the opportunity to use Safe Rides, heard from other students that the wait was always long.
“I think it should still be in effect but should be more accessible because I heard it takes a long time to get there,” Mortello said.
Safe Rides is currently working with SGA to create an alternative program for students. For now, Dooley suggests that students take extra precautions when traveling at night. Safe Rides is also asking for any feedback from students on their closing.