SMU Rides: On the Road to Success

April 29, 2011  

By Katie Simpson

After a major shift in management last June, SMU Rides has undergone substantial changes.

Originally the program was run by members of the Alpha Phi Omega (APO) service fraternity. It was created on a volunteer basis and was funded by the Student Senate. The idea was that any student could call the SMU Rides hotline on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights and would be provided with transportation back to campus, entirely paid for by the university. Student volunteers would take ride requests from callers and then forward the information to SMU Rides’ partner company, Executive Taxi.

“The idea of SMU Rides is great,” said former volunteer Celine Haikal. “It offers a free ride back to SMU or a student’s apartment to ensure students have a way to get home safely.”

Although the idea may have been a good one, it had never been properly executed. Before undergoing the recent reconstruction of the program, SMU Rides had proven to be less than dependable. The program had three main issues that needed to be addressed.

First was the problem of understaffing of both the volunteers who received the calls and the number of cab drivers available.

“APO did not have the time SMU Rides needed, and because there is such a quick turnover from officer to officer in APO, it was hard for the SMU Rides Chair to keep up with the details about [the program],” recalled Haikal.

Sophomore Tashika Varma reported having called the service twice last year; both times no one picked up.

“I think they should maybe have more drivers. Also they need a better answering system so that even if they can’t pick up every person who calls, it doesn’t come across to students as if they’re not doing their job,” said Varma.

Staffing issues weren’t the only concern the program was experiencing. According to Mark Rhodes, the current director of SMU Rides, students had been abusing the service since day one. Instead of asking for a ride back to campus, they were using the program to hop from bar to bar and with no proper documentation, it was hard to prevent this from occurring.

Now under Park n’ Pony’s management, SMU Rides has revamped its service to ensure the program is no longer taken advantage of.

It does still uphold its guarantee that the program has no connection with the SMU police. It is completely confidential and students will never be asked any questions about their night.

However, the new rule is that upon pickup students are now required to give their names, student ID cards, as well as their drop off location. This is to ensure that the service is used for the right reasons.

“The program is not a drop cab,” Rhodes said, “It’s an emergency ride home.”

The last issue was the lack of awareness within the student body.

“I think I’ve heard the name before, but I have no idea what the service does,” said SMU junior Clare Viglione.

SMU Rides now promotes itself all over campus. Along with a banner ad posted on the Park ‘N Pony website, it also places business cards in campus mailboxes and sends out e-mails to the entire university.

“If you need to get back to campus we’ll get you here, we’ll send a cab for you and we’ll bring you home,” said Rhodes.

“On a good night we got three calls,” Haikal recalls the state of the program before the changes took place.

But with over 280 calls last fall, SMU Rides is finally on the road toward success.

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