Passengers board at one of the three designated pick up locations, the Illini Union.
This post was originally published on February 18, 2013. It is a useful reminder about how to use SafeRides plus gives insight into how this special service operates.
Last Thursday I celebrated Valentine’s Day in true transit bliss: I spent my night on an MTD vehicle. I rode 335 SafeRides with a veteran, and recently made famous operator, Lin Jayne. My reasons for riding were two-fold:
Learn how the system works from cradle (the initial call) to grave (dropping a passenger off).
Gain the operator’s perspective to better inform the public.
“Hey Sugar, Happy Valentine’s Day!” Lin greeted me as I boarded at the Illini Union at 10 pm and she handed me a heart-shaped lollipop. Our night together was off to a sweet start.
The Rule of Threes
Sunday through Wednesday, three vans work together to serve the 335 SafeRides boundary area. An additional van is added Thursday through Saturday as a backup. The three vans serve distinct areas, although overlap is inevitable and occurs often.
The East van operates from Vine Street and Mathews Avenue, east to west, to University Avenue and Windsor Road, north to south. This may seem like a large service area, but the demand is less. The Northwest van operates from Mathews Avenue and State Street, east to west, to University Avenue and Green Street, north to south. The Southwest van fills in the rest from Wright Street and State Street, east to west, to Green Street and Windsor Road, north to south.
There are three designated pickup locations that are served twice an hour from 9:00 pm until 3:00 am – the period of most demand.
The East serves Illinois Street Residence Halls (ISR) at :27 and :57 after the hour and heads directly to the Illini Union for the :00 and :30 pickup. The Northwest reports to the Illini Union at :00 and :30 as well. The Southwest serves Armory & Wright (Main Library) at :27 and :57 and goes, you guessed it, to the Illini Union.
The Illini Union is the linchpin for 335 SafeRides. Every 30 minutes, all three vans meet in the Illini Union’s circle drive. Passengers that were picked up by the Southwest are transferred to the East, the Northwest transfers passengers to the Southwest, and so on.
“Our goal is to get you off the street,” Lin stressed. “Not provide a speedy ride. Sometimes your ride will be quick, but other times you will have to wait until I can transfer you.”
The Rule Breakers, the No-Shows, and the Confused
The cardinal rules of 335 SafeRides are thus:
Serving a scheduled pick up on Third Street.
“Three persons or less at the pick up location.” Time is wasted when callers misreport the number of people in their party, which then forces a SafeRides operator to spend time negotiating with the large group instead of getting to the next pick up.
“The trip cannot duplicate fixed-route service.” Many trip requests are turned down because the trip origin and destination are already served by fixed routes. “In many instances, you can walk just one block and get to the Illini or two blocks to get to the Green. I’m worried about the kids who have to walk ten blocks who I’m not getting to as quickly,” Lin said. If you want to walk to fixed-route service, but don’t feel safe walking alone, call SafeWalks.
“The operator will only wait two minutes for passengers.” The number of no-shows and the resulting time wasted is high. While Lin and all other SafeRides operators worry about what may detain a caller, they must move on to other scheduled pickups.
The confused are unsure where they’re going or are simultaneously finalizing plans with friends as they ride. This is not efficient for the operator or other passengers on board/waiting to board.
Know the intersection or address for your origin and destination.
Treat your assigned pick up time like the start of an exam and don’t be late.
When exiting the van, walk around the back of the vehicle and look for traffic. Just as you would when exiting a bus!
SafeRides vans are not crossing guards. Use crosswalks and wait for traffic signals!
Wave at MTD vans and buses if you want to board. “It’s so dark out here that sometimes I can’t tell if you’re a light post or a tiny person!”
Call your mom!
SafeRides vans are continuously winding throughout the boundary area, serving a new pickup every three minutes, and keeping an eye on riders and pedestrians that are in need. MTD Dispatchers communicate with the University of Illinois Police Department on a weekly, sometimes nightly basis as incidences are reported by operators or anonymous callers.
It is clear that 335 SafeRides is a valuable and needed service but one that we all must understand and respect. As Lin says to all departing passengers, “Thanks for playing!”