The University of South Carolina’s campus nightlife is lively, to say the least.
With three out of the seven days of the week — Thursday, Friday and Saturday — dedicated to nighttime activities, there came a call for reliable transportation to and from city hotspots. And students were able to make that happen, creating a "safe rides" GroupMe.
But the recent hike in "safe rides" prices is appalling and could drive users towards potentially dangerous rideshare apps.
Ideally, students should be riding with fellow students, despite the various rideshare apps available. But cheap rides are the most appealing when finding transportation home after a night out in Five Points or The Vista.
One option is Lyft, since students are able to use a special code that discounts up to $8 off of the price of a ride from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. But on Sept. 1, the codes were found to be “inactive,” leaving the price of a five-minute drive upwards of $15.
The alternative is a student-managed system, "safe rides," that operates via GroupMe. Created by women for women, this transportation service was crafted to create a safer environment for women in potentially vulnerable states traveling back from a late night out.
The exact layout of the system is designed to provide cheap, safe rides, and all transactions are typically through the GroupMe chat or other contact information provided by members.
But there are stipulations.
Per the written guidelines of "safe rides," the GroupMe's profile states that “fair prices, safety, and respect of property are high priority” as well as no tolerance for harassment or bullying.
Individual drivers of the GroupMe set their own rates, but prices are meant to be comparable to that of rideshare apps. For example, if a 10-minute ride with a Lyft or Uber is $10 then a "safe rides" for the same route should be at or around $10.
Prices are communicated between drivers and riders before a "safe rides" is ordered via text or when riders first enter the vehicle.
The months of September and October have seen an increase in prices for "safe rides." Typically, a ride ranges from about $5 to $10 but due to the increase of women choosing "safe rides" over Lyft, prices have nearly doubled that of a standard ride, coming out to around $20.
A $20 ride is incredibly steep for a short ride through Columbia. And the fact that college students are the ones choosing the prices is baffling, especially when they are also consumers of rideshare apps and familiar with expensive rides.
This is just about the cost, if not more, of a Lyft without the code.
Avid "safe rides" user Frankie Macchia, a third-year political science student and deputy secretary of safety for Student Government, said she has recently even been up-charged during a ride, despite agreeing on a set price beforehand.
"When it's done the way it's supposed to be done, it works great," Macchia said. "It's just those times when it's not done the way that it's supposed to be done that steers people back to those rideshare apps."
The increase in prices is frustrating. One would think that college students providing late-night transportation to other college students would be understanding and put forth reasonably priced rides or “fair prices” as the rules state. But, despite this, women should still utilize the system rather than ordering a Lyft.
Safety is of the upmost importance, for men and women alike. But the truth is women have to be more cautious and more observant than men.
The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. The group reports that 26.4% of female undergraduate students experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence or incapacitation.
"Safe rides" provides a safe space for women to feel at ease when traveling home after a night out when they are potentially vulnerable. It's important to remain safe while venturing out on the town late at night as well as keeping a set of safety tips in mind, such as staying close to your friends or giving them your location.
“The buddy system, it goes without saying ... If you ever do wind up alone, phone a friend," Macchia said. "Don’t think that you can get home safely on your own, even if you can, even if you have before. That doesn’t mean that you’re going to this time."
The best thing to do is remain safe.
If staying safe translates to accepting a $10 to $15 ride from a fellow female student over a similarly priced Lyft ride from a total stranger, then that is the choice students must make.
But that shouldn't have to be the case.
Rides should not be expensive. An organization designed by students for students like the "safe rides" GroupMe operates with one goal in mind — keeping students safe.
Those students shouldn't be dissuaded from choosing the safest option possible in favor of sparing a few bucks for a ride with a stranger.