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SAFE Team shifts student safety into high gear with Uber partnership

The Alert Cab service is open to all USF students and is meant to promote overall safety instead of specifically drinking and driving safety.

SAFE Team is working with a new set of wheels. It just launched a free ride service with Uber in an effort to promote student safety outside of campus. 

SAFE Team is a department within Student Government (SG) that works to promote student safety at USF. This includes an on-campus escort service in which students will be driven or walked from one part of campus to another and an off-campus driving service for USF students who feel unsafe.

Kaelyn Steele, SAFE Team director, said some financial logistics are still being worked out, but it has been decided that students will be granted a one-time only, $30 Uber voucher  every month.

On Tuesday night, SG allocated SAFE Team $25,440 ($24,000 for the service and $1,440 for the 6 percent  overhead charge) in order to make the transition from the cab service, United Cab, to Uber.

Steele said the purpose of the partnership with Uber is to be available to all students in any situation in which they feel unsafe.

This is different than the previous partnership with United Cab because it was solely for students who were 21 and older to prevent drinking and driving. Steele said the contract said students had to be in an alcohol-serving establishment and needed a residential address in Hillsborough County in order to be picked up.

The new service is open to USF students of all ages.

“If it’s because you’ve been drinking and can’t get home or because you are at a friend’s apartment and don’t feel safe there, you can call,” Steele said.

In order to use the voucher, students would call SAFE Team to put in a request. The dispatcher will then ask for follow-up information in order to be sent the code. The voucher will automatically appear in the student’s Uber app, according to Steele.

The follow-up information includes the student’s name, phone number, birthday, university ID number, driver’s license number, current location and residential location.

The one ride per month can fit up to four to six people depending on the vehicle (UberX, UberXL, Uber Pool, etc) the student requests.

The service will run during SAFE Team’s hours of operation which are 6:30 p.m. to 2 a.m.

SAFE Team is still working out the financial details, but Steele said students will be responsible if the ride fare exceeds $30.

“So if their ride is $45, they would have to pay that surplus $15,” Steele said.

A radius limit has not been established yet, however, Steele said she does not believe there will be one.

For example, if a student is driving from Orlando to Tampa, they could still be eligible for the voucher but they would have to pay the rest of the Uber fare.

With United Cab, SAFE Team served as an intermediary between the service and the student. They would have to call the cab service and provide instructions as to where the student was.

Now, students can use their Uber account and location to see where their ride is and who exactly is picking them up.

“This is much safer than getting into a cab that a student doesn’t know the details of,” Steele said.

The safety services Uber offers include driver screenings, an emergency assistance button, real-time identification, a ‘share my trip’ option and an incident report available 24/7, according to Steele.

Steele said Safe Team is expecting to provide about 800 rides until at least next August. However, she said she hopes the program will be able to extend into the next fiscal year with more partnerships.

In previous years, SAFE Team has worked with Yuengling and the beer distributing company,  Pepin, who has donated $18,000.

The partnership was divided three ways between United Cab, Pepin and SAFE Team. SAFE Team contributed $24,000, United Cab was benefiting from the use of the service and Pepin was receiving the marketing and advertising.

Because it hasn’t been advertised recently, the United Cab service was receiving around five calls a month. But, Steele said in past years SAFE Team would receive about 10 calls every Friday night and about 100 calls a month.

SAFE Team stopped the United Cab contract about two months ago because it was “outdated.” Steele said she believes students will enjoy using Uber more.

“Most students are familiar with using Uber or a ride-sharing app, but most students haven’t used a cab before,” Steele said. 

Because the students do not have to be in an alcohol-serving establishment or within USF’s radius, this raises the question of people taking advantage of the free ride service for reasons other than their safety. 

However, Steele said students abusing the service has never been an issue.

“We are going to be monitoring who’s using it and how often they are,” Steele said. “I hope students will use it for safety measures but I also can’t control what is happening in their lives.

“Whatever the student wants to use it for, we are here to help.”