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IU Safety Escort plans to improve training



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Tanner Smith drives Jan. 16, 2019, for the IU Safety Escort service through downtown Bloomington. Colin Kulpa

Safety Escort has been an official IU service since 1994. The staff is working on changes to help make it better for students. 

The free service, operated through the TapRide app, is a rideshare service that takes IU students and faculty home late at night in the Bloomington area. Provided by IU Fleet Services, it offers free safe rides to prevent students from walking home alone, according to the service's website.

Safety Escort employs drivers and navigators to pick up passengers from anywhere in Bloomington and take them home or to another location, just not commercial locations, Safety Escort Director Hannah Brainard said. Each van has a driver and a navigator as an added safety precaution. The service runs seven days a week from 8 p.m. to 1:45 a.m. during fall and spring semesters. However, according to their website, the service may stop running a half-hour early or earlier based on a high volume of requests.

Brainard said she feels Safety Escort is an added level of precaution designed to protect students but has drawbacks the service is looking to address, such as the wait time and the number of calls they can take each night.

“We used to have a van that was just dedicated to taking students from campus locations to campus locations, but we got rid of the campus van and had it take regular Bloomington calls,” Brainard said. “Now we are doing more calls each night.”

Safety Escort also implemented more training techniques so it is more comprehensive for drivers, allowing them to begin working with more knowledge and efficiency. They are also working on a survey for riders to complete after rides.

Students at IU also see the benefit of using Safety Escort, especially after late-night study sessions. 

SophomoreAllie Quinto said she uses Safety Escort as much as she can. 

“When I’m studying late at night at Wells and no one else can give me a ride, I’ll call TapRide to get home,” Quinto said. “Even if it takes 20 minutes, it’s better than walking all the way up the extension.”

Roni Goolsby, a navigator and driver with IU Safety Escort, said Safety Escort is often there when other rideshare services can’t be, even if they can’t take riders to every location in Bloomington.

“We don’t drop off to commercial locations but we can pick you up from there,” Goolsby said. “But when it snows, we’re the ones trying to drive on the road as opposed to other Ubers and Lyfts.”

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