Safe Ride Drives Students Away With Two-Hour Waits, Failures to Arrive

Students report long wait times — some as long as two hours — and poor communication when using Safe Ride, NYU’s ride-sharing service meant to provide safe transportation for students out late at night.

NYU Safe Ride cars outside Third Avenue North Residence Hall. (Photo by Veronica Liow)

CAS sophomore Liz Marquis and two of her friends were leaving a party near Broome Street Residence Hall at 1 a.m. last month. They were bound for University Residence Hall —  a 23-minute walk that should translate to a nine-minute drive. Factoring in the distance and late hour, the trio decided to call a Safe Ride — NYU’s late-night rideshare service — with hopes of arriving at their destination shortly. But by the time the vehicle dropped them off at U-Hall, more than three hours had passed.

After Marquis called the Safe Ride that night, she was told by the dispatcher that the vehicle would arrive in 45 minutes. When she and her friends boarded the Safe Ride — which came in double the promised time — the vehicle drove around for two hours, taking what Marquis said was an unusual route.

“They stopped at Brittany, and I thought, ‘Okay, U-Hall should be next,’ but then it went back to Weinstein and to Bobst,” Marquis said.

She added that even though her dorm is far from most NYU facilities, she no longer sees Safe Ride as a viable option after this occurrence.

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“I almost started crying on the Safe Ride out of frustration,” Marquis said. “I would rather pay for an Uber than take [another] Safe Ride.”

Safe Ride is a free overnight transportation service available during academic terms through which NYU community members can request rides to and from NYU facilities from midnight to 7 a.m. The service is intended to provide a safe mode of transportation for students who are out late at night and may be intoxicated. Its vehicles are operated by the Academy Bus line. The only mechanism for reporting complaints is an online Google form.

Rides can be requested via the Safe NYU Mobile App, the Safe Ride web portal or the Department of Public Safety’s hotline and are processed through an algorithm which considers the vehicles on the road, passengers’ destinations and the number of requests being processed.

“The software algorithm then assigns the request based on the most efficient use of resources,” reads a document outlining the Safe Ride service sent to WSN by Assistant Director of Transportation Services Greg Rivas.

The document also indicated that the Safe Ride service includes a dispatcher who closely monitors routes.

“[The] live dispatcher is able to quickly see trips that are experiencing sub-optimal experiences, such as longer than usual wait times, and move these trips to the top of the priority list,” the document reads.

Rivas did not respond to a request for comment by time of publication.

Twenty-two students interviewed by WSN found fault in these statements, citing wait times of 45 minutes or longer, illogical routes and inconsistent communication between constituents and the Safe Ride system.

“It always takes so long,” Marquis said. “Sometimes the Safe Ride people will hang up on you, it takes so long to get to the destination to pick you up and then it’ll go in order of who called it and not what’s closest.”

Like Marquis, CAS first-year Amina Chace said that she does not plan to use Safe Ride anymore after four unsuccessful experiences.

“One time we called and they said it would be 30 minutes so we said, ‘Okay, we can do that’ but then we waited for two hours and it still wasn’t there,” Chace said. “We literally would’ve walked if we’d known it would have taken two hours.”

CAS sophomore Daniel Cienava recounted waiting for nearly an hour the first time he used Safe Ride as a first-year.

“It was a Saturday night going into Sunday morning, I called the Safe Ride at 4 a.m. because I didn’t want to walk back from Rubin to U-Hall, because that’s not fun,” he said.

Cienava attributed the long wait time to high usage during late hours on weekends.

“I even called them up because I was very confused about when it was getting there and they said, ‘Yeah, be patient, there are a lot of kids like you requesting us,’” Cienava said. “One of the times [it wasn’t late] was a Sunday night, the other was a weeknight.”

CAS senior Paggie Tan has used Safe Ride over 50 times on both weekends and weekdays. She said it was late picking her up in nearly half of those instances.

“One time I waited for 45 minutes and then they said the other kids [ahead on the list] were still waiting to go, so me and my friend just ordered a cab back home,” Tan said.

Tan said that once, after a late-night study session at Bobst Library, the Safe Ride she requested went all the way to Tandon School of Engineering’s campus in Brooklyn before it dropped her off near her home in Manhattan’s Stuyvesant Town neighborhood.

The NYU Department of Public Safety piloted a Brooklyn overnight shuttle last Spring — operating on a fixed route, transporting students from NYU buildings in Manhattan to Brooklyn every half-hour starting at 12:30 a.m. — which runs concurrently with Safe Ride, currently only operating on a point-to-point system in Manhattan.

Stern first-year Grace Zhu said that during one of her Safe Ride experiences going from Third North Residence Hall to Lipton Residence Hall, the driver’s GPS stopped working and a student passenger was forced to navigate the route.

“The driver didn’t know where he was going so it wasn’t a very safe experience,” Zhu said.

Some students say their requested rides never even came.

Rory Meyers first-year Taylor Robben said her Safe Ride, despite multiple phone calls and multiple requests online and on the app, never arrived. Like Marquis and Chace, she was dissuaded from using the service again.

Similarly, CAS sophomore Ivan Benitez attempted to request Safe Ride six different times in the past without it ever arriving. When a Safe Ride he called this Halloween did arrive, it was nearly two hours late.

“Halloween was the first time I’d ever gotten one that actually arrived,” Benitez said. “It fluctuated between two stops and five stops and one stop and then six stops, you kinda never knew when it was gonna get there.”

Safe Rides not arriving at all is part of a larger issue students said was due to a general lack of communication between Safe Ride’s operations and Safe Ride users.

“My biggest issue with Safe Ride is that it’s supposed to operate as a reliable, quick and safe way to get home,” Marquis said. “That’s never the case.”

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Nov. 4, 2019, print edition. Email Lisa Cochran at [email protected] 

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