SafeRide not a taxi

Chantel Whitman is defending SafeRide.

The University of New Brunswick students’ union vice-president of student services was upset with comments made about the service in The Aquinian last week. Reporters were unable to reach her for comment then.

Two students said they were worried about their safety, the reliability of the service and drivers not knowing where to go.

“They’re not taxi drivers,” said Whitman.

“You guys were used to having a taxi driver driving everybody home. So they knew the streets. These guys are students, they’re not trained like taxi drivers.”

She said maps have been provided to drivers and some use a GPS to navigate.

“They’ve only been at this a month, they’re all brand new except for one from last year,” she said.

SafeRide is a free drive home from campus.

This summer, St. Thomas University’s students’ union signed a contract to pay the UNBSU $6,000 to allow STU students to use the service.

Previously STUSU contracted Trius Taxi for a service called SafeWheels.

Between Sept. 12 and Oct. 14, statistics provided by Whitman show that out of 1,571 users total, 241 were STU students.

Whitman held a meeting with SafeRide drivers on Oct. 16 to review policies and assign one of the two vans to start at James Dunn Hall.

A whiteboard has been added near the street side exit of JDH to let students know approximately when the SafeRide van will return.

She said “all drivers have completed driver training except one” and added she is “looking into holding a refresher course in the coming weeks.”

“It’s not mandatory, but I feel like it’s something we should do to make sure the service is better,” she added.

Students last week said the SafeRide vans always seem to be at the Student Union Building.

“They have two vans. One of them always begins at James Dunn Hall, the other one always begins at the SUB,” said vice-president student life Alex Vietinghoff at the regular Thursday STUSU meeting.

“The one from the SUB then goes to Head Hall. The one that begins at James Dunn Hall then goes down to the SUB.

“So STU students are first in line at James Dunn. The reason two go to the SUB is its the highest concentration of student population,” he continued.

Whitman said there isn’t preferential treatment given to UNB students.

“The contract ensures equal access. We do not put out STU students for UNB students.

“If the van is full of UNB students and there are STU students – it’s whoever is there first is going to get the first seat to get home. It doesn’t matter if they’re from UNB.

“If I ever hear of a driver kicking out a STU student, I will talk to them.”

She said the van that starts at JDH is supposed to wait there for at least 15 minutes before going to the SUB.

She said students have told her they are happy with the increased hours.

Last year, SafeWheels ran 10 hours a week compared to the 40 hours SafeRide operates this year.

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