UI "Nite Ride" service rolls out improvements - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

UI "Nite Ride" service rolls out improvements

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IOWA CITY (KWWL) -

A University of Iowa's Department of Public Safety service, NITE RIDE, now has an improved application service and an express ride option to cut down on wait times.

When NITE RIDE first came to be back in 2008, there had been multiple reports on campus of women being groped, according to UI DPS security supervisor, Beau Hartsock. In that first year, Hartsock said they'd see 10 to 15 riders a night. Now, they operate seven days a week and see upwards of 250.

NITE RIDE operates from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.. It consists of two NITE RIDE vans, which are manned by student security officers. The service ensures students and staff a safe ride home for free.

After hearing from students, the department rolled out new upgrades to the service, which includes a new application service to request rides, plus an option to take an express ride. Hartsock said the hope is that it will cut down on wait times.

"No matter where you are, we don't want somebody to wait in the middle of the night when it's dark out. We want to minimize that, which is the purpose of this new app and the NITE RIDE express aspect of it," he said.

Through the app, users will have to enter their HawkID, phone number, and pick-up and drop-off locations. Riders will be informed about what type of vehicle to look for before it arrives, before then also receiving a text message about their ride approaching.

For $1, students can opt to take the express option. Instead of being picked up by one of the two NITE RIDE vans, two additional department vehicles will be added into the mix. That way, a rider can be taken directly to their destination rather than have to wait through multiple stops on the vans.

It bares similarities of ride-sharing platforms like Uber of Lyft. Hartsock said it's similar, but it's also cheaper and safer.

On March 20, Iowa City police issued a community-wide warning of a report of a man possibly pretending to be an Uber driver. The warning came with a reminder for riders to double-check who the driver is before getting in a car.

 "[Student security drivers] have direct radio contact to the police. Though this was in the works before that, that even shows that even more that a service like ours is needed on campus," Hartsock said.

In 2016, 21% of undergraduate women surveyed at the University of Iowa reported being raped.

"Ultimately, we want zero sexual assault. That's where we're headed," said Adam Robinson, the Executive Director of the Rape Victim Advocacy Program (RVAP).

Robinson said services like NITE RIDE can be empowering but, ultimately, are not the solution.

"Really, the solution is teaching people to not assault other people. That's real prevention.  Teaching people who are choosing to cause harm, to not cause harm. So, while we do that, while we're working on doing that, we can also work on some risk-reduction practices as well which Nite Ride, I think, is," he said.

Anyone impacted by sexual violence can contact RVAP's crisis line at 319-335-6000.

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