Changing the way you ride

COLIN LIKAS
EDITOR IN CHIEF

After a little more than two months on Butler University’s campus, the Dawg Ride system has gotten several students from point A to point B.
But it has not come without some concerns and troubles, and users should expect a change to the system soon.
Dawg Ride is “an on-demand safety transportation service that will take students, who are residing on campus, to and from all areas of campus,” according to Butler’s website.
Students using the service are transported in a van with the Dawg Ride label on its side driven by contracted individuals from ESG Security, said Bill Weber, assistant police chief.
The service is offered from sunset to sunrise each day and also for students with ADA disabilities during the day, according to Butler’s website.
To request a ride, a student contacts Butler University Police Department, whose dispatcher informs the Dawg Ride driver of the request.
Weber said the number of calls the BUPD dispatcher is receiving each night is blocking up the phone line in a potentially dangerous manner.
BUPD has received as many as 56 calls in a single night requesting Dawg Ride, according to statistics compiled by BUPD.
“Imagine I’m someone calling with a true emergency. You don’t want to get a busy signal when you call the police,” Weber said.
BUPD, Butler Information Technology, and a third party are working to change the way requests are sent and received.
An app will soon be available on iPhone and Android that will allow Butler students to request a ride at different on-and off-campus locations.
“It’s really a more convenient way for students to request going from one place to another,” said Tyler Johnston, Butler IT project manager. “And it’s also going to provide the driver of the Dawg Ride with information to hopefully be more efficient.”
Johnston said TapRide is creating the app with assistance from IT.
TapRide creates apps for higher education institutions—among other organizations—that help simplify on-demand ride request on their campuses.
IT is ensuring everyone with a Butler email address and password will be able to use the app, and that wifi and cell phone coverage is strong at pre-determined Dawg Ride pickup and drop off locations, Johnston said.
Johnston said he hopes the app will be in use before the end of the semester.
Butler and BUPD have mapped out 14 locations on campus and in the Butler-Tarkington area that students can request to be picked up from and dropped off at via the TapRide app.
Weber said Dawg Ride will still be on-demand and, while there are going to be 14 pre-determined stops, the van will not follow a singular route all night.
He also said he feels the app will be beneficial to both BUPD and those using Dawg Ride.
“I think anytime you can improve on technology and convenience and safety for students, that’s a good thing,” Weber said. “I’m anxious to see how this goes with the implementation of stops and an app.”
If BUPD’s statistics are any indication, many students would be assisted by this app.
Between Sept. 27 and Oct. 24, Dawg Ride transported 1,190 people, according to BUPD’s statistics. The peak number of individuals moved was 311 on Oct. 5.
Sophomore Monica Graves used Dawg Ride for the first time last weekend, but she experienced some trouble because she was initially off campus.
Graves—who was wearing a walking boot because of an injury—said she called to request the service, and that she was told she needed to be on campus to use it.
She was located at Crown Street and Berkley Road, and she and a friend—who was on crutches—were eventually picked up by a BUPD officer and taken on to campus.
“I felt a little disappointed,” Graves said. “It was really late at night, and I felt really uncomfortable. If something were to happen, I couldn’t defend myself in a boot.”
Graves said she thinks an idea like the app would be beneficial to students wanting to use the system.
“We could’ve made it to a certain spot, and they could’ve picked us up, even if it was a little off campus,” Graves said.
Weber said the initial intent of Dawg Ride was to help students parking in the I Lot get to main campus. However, he also said there are no rules in place to prevent students from requesting Dawg Ride to get from any one location to another.
While Weber said he feels it is important to make sure students are safe, he also said the Dawg Ride service may be abused at times.
He cited examples of someone calling to ask for a ride from Ross Hall to Schwitzer Hall, or a group of five men asking for a ride somewhere. However, he said such calls are minimal.
“At the same time, it still ties up a phone line, (and) it still ties up a dispatcher,” Weber said. “There’s still a cost to that, even if it’s a cost in time.”
Weber also said he does not want the Dawg Ride to turn into “a method to avoid consequences of the law,” specifically as they pertain to underage drinking.
Weber said Dawg Ride will transport those who have participated in underage drinking, but the individuals may receive a citation if a BUPD officer is nearby or involved during a pickup or drop off.
“I don’t want to see some student, underage or not, stumbling down the street or through an alley to potentially avoid police or because they don’t know where they’re going,” Weber said. “The Dawg Ride is not your party bus, it’s there for your safety.”
Even with Dawg Ride’s popularity, Weber said he is unsure if the system could expand in the future.
But no matter Dawg Ride’s original purpose, Weber said it will be utilized to ensure student safety.
“You’ll never know if, by using Dawg Ride, a crime or crimes against students was prevented,” Weber said.

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