SG works to get Sober Ride rolling

Students planning to hit the dance floors of Ybor City this weekend will not be able to use Sober Ride, a free shuttle service to USF students, but Student Government has another option.Following a May accident and a subsequent decision by the Department of Risk Management – the agency that insures all state-run operations – to no longer cover the shuttle service, SG shut down Sober Ride.

Student body president Mike Griffin has submitted a contract to USF detailing a new program that will use a cab service instead of the three vans used by Sober Ride. Once the contract is approved, students will be able to use the service free of charge.

The parties involved in the new program include Tampa-based Anheuser Busch distributor Pepin Distributing and Gulf Coast Transportation’s Alert Cab service.

Pepin works with Alert Cab and clubs throughout the Tampa area. In this program, bartenders in participating locations will call a cab for those who ask. The ride is free and funded by Pepin.

Meanwhile, Griffin said starting the new service is at the “mercy” of the university, which is reviewing the contract. He said for now, students who call 974-SAFE will be connected to a representative of the Safe Team who will then send a cab. Griffin said the student, however, will have to pay the fare if the bar is not participating in the program.

David Armstrong, SG business manager, said the slow pace of the process is no surprise.

“Nothing moves at lightning speed at this university,” Armstrong said.

Had SG opted to purchase a private insurance plan, Griffin said Sober Ride could have remained open. However, the $1 million coverage plan that could have been purchased for $21,000 per year wasn’t sufficient, he said.

“Sober Ride is in operation seven days a week,” Griffin said.

“The risk that an accident will occur is high.”

Griffin said the risk, though hypothetical, was one not worth taking.

“If someone were to be seriously injured or killed by one of these vans, I can guarantee you that we would be sued for more than $1 million,” he said.

If such a lawsuit was brought against USF and/or SG, the activities and services fund, money used to finance more than 120 student organizations, would have to pay, potentially crippling or eliminating student organizations.

Tom DiBella, associate director for purchasing, said the contract has been sent to the university’s legal department and said he hopes it will be resolved in two weeks. The time frame, however, could be longer because the process’ steps take time, he said.

“The general counsel is going to put together a contract to protect the university and the students from liability,” DiBella said. The contract devised by general counsel will then be sent to Gulf Coast Transportation for their approval. In addition, DiBella said the university will have to review the amount of Gulf Coast’s insurance coverage and decide whether it is enough.

“We’d like to see the amount of insurance they carry,” DiBella said. “We are not going to sign off on a contract that doesn’t have enough insurance.”

Armstrong said he expects the contract to be approved, but in case it isn’t, SG will do whatever it takes to resolve the issue.

“We’re going to do this come hell or high water,” Armstrong said. “It’s just a matter of getting it through the system.”

Contact Ryan Meehanat