Georgetown will expand its SafeRides service to include new shuttle routes through Burleith and West Georgetown beginning Thursday, members of the Student Safety Advisory Board announced last week.

Instead of responding to calls, as the current SafeRides escort vans do, the new shuttles will run circuitous routes throughout the two areas and pick up students at designated spots. Students will be required to show their GOCards to board the vans.

“The idea behind the shuttle is that SafeRides will be a completely available system,” SSAB member Erin Barbato (COL ’06) said. “Now there’s almost no reason not to take SafeRides, especially when students are traveling through high-crime areas.”

The decision comes at the end of a semester in which there has been a spate of violent off-campus crimes, particularly during the late hours of the evening. Many students have been pressuring the administration to respond to the wave of crime.

The expansion of SafeRides is one of several recent developments resulting from student safety concerns on and near campus. Early last month, the university told the Virginia-based safety contractor SST to remove its emergency call boxes from campus, which still are not functioning properly nearly a year and a half after their installation. Last Tuesday, the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission approved a request for three new streetlights off-campus that the SSAB had requested.

Both new SafeRides routes will begin at Healy Gates. One shuttle will loop around most of West Georgetown, following a route along Prospect Street and 33rd Street, N Street and 35th Street and O Street and Potomac Street before returning.

The Burleith shuttle will run down O Street to 35th Street, up through S and 38th Streets, and then down Reservoir Road on its return to Healy Gates. Both routes are designed so that students will not have to wait more than 20 minutes for a van.

The new shuttles will run between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. on Thursday, and from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.

David Morrell, vice president for university safety, said that the first few weeks of operation will be a trial period for the new shuttles to determine how they can be improved when students return from winter break in January.

“We have to get the kinks out and make sure the stops are correct, the time is correct and that we have the right size vehicles,” Morrell said.

The Department of Public Safety will continue to operate call-and-response escort vans, but the new shuttles will be operated by Abe’s Transportation, a private company, Morrell said. He said that information related to the cost of the new shuttles was not available.

Barbato said that she believes the new shuttles will be able to accommodate 15 people at a time.

The extension of the SafeRides program is the latest in a series of steps taken by the university to increase safety both on and off campus after a student safety survey in April revealed that students feel unsafe on several areas around campus and a town hall meeting between students and administrators in October.

Elisabeth Pordes, (COL ’06) who called for changes in SafeRides at the October town hall meeting, said she was pleased with the steps that SSAB took on the issue.

“Since students are only guaranteed three years of housing, I believe it is the university’s obligation to make sure that off-campus students live in a safe environment,” she said. The shuttle will show the community that Georgetown is taking an active role in promoting the safety of their students.”

Other students who said that they were dissatisfied with the current SafeRides service said they are looking forward to the new program.

Molly Reynolds (COL ’06) said that she called SafeRides twice around 11:30 p.m. on Sunday night to request a ride to Lauinger Library from her house in West Georgetown. She said that she was placed on hold for six minutes both times she called, and then was disconnected. After the second call, she said that she gave up.

“I didn’t want to have to try again, maybe get an answer, and then wait another 20 minutes to be picked up,” she said.

Reynolds thinks the new route will help solve that problem.

Lindsey Hughes (COL ’06) said she has used SafeRides “only five times this semester at most,” despite the fact that she lives off campus in Burleith. Hughes also said she has been frustrated by the amount of time she has had to wait for SafeRides in the past.

“I will absolutely take SafeRides more now,” Hughes said. “The main reason that I don’t currently is that you usually have to wait all the time, sometimes for up to an hour. Also, sometimes they are so busy that they don’t even answer the phone,” she said.

Barbato said the she believes the new routes will help to deter crime.

“It will be almost as if the areas are being monitored or patrolled,” she said. “With more presence, I think there will be less crime.”

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