Recently, there has been substantial fuss over the University’s decision to shut down the SAFECab program earlier this summer. Although the final decision was made by UW administration this summer, the truth is serious conversations about potentially ending SAFECab date back at least to 2008/09.
How do I know this? Well, as Chairman of the Student Services Finance Committee at the time, I was party to many such conversations. In fact, the following year, ASM leadership was extremely close to pulling the plug on SAFECab funding in the wake of Governor Doyle’s commandeering of segregated fees.
When I set out to write this story, I was going to propose an alternative solution to the SAFECab program that can be implemented with relative ease, with little to no increase in funding costs and within mechanisms that currently exist in the ASM toolkit.
Students and young professionals in the downtown area would be able to utilize the taxi service for a flat fee inside a zone, including the tip to the cab driver, Resnick said. He added the taxi service would cover the immediate downtown area, extending from Blair Street to all of campus.
Resnick said in an email the flat fee for a ride would be $5 in the central zone of the city and that the cost to the city would be minimal. He added guests could reach taxis through phone pickup or by hailing one.
My proposal was similar in design (ASM partnering with a local cab company for student reduced-fares), but I actually prefer the larger city-level scope of Resnick’s proposal extending to young professionals in addition to UW students.
Thus, this post has taken on new form. I wholeheartedly endorse Resnick’s idea and want to add to it a suggestion for partnership and funding support.
- In 2010, ASM has committed over $200,000 to SAFECab (this is the most recent data I had on hand). Considering the budget has increased every year since 2008, this year’s ASM allotment is likely closer to $250,000.
- This money was built into the segregated fee assessment for the year despite the University’s decision to kill the program. “According to Bruecker, UW Transportation Services said they are not running SAFEride cabs because they were not efficient, and now the money students have paid through segregated fees for the equivalent of three cab rides is not being used for any purpose.”
- I posit that ASM’s purpose with this funding is to support campus safety in the form of safe transportation for students in the campus and downtown area late at night.
- A mechanism has recently been introduced into the ASM financial process – the Campus Services Fund - which allows for ASM to seek out services that would benefit the campus and contract with parties outside the University to provide such service. (Note: this is a funding mechanism that I have supported since 2008 and wrote strongly in favor for in my senior thesis in 2010).
- One of the largest burdens of SAFECab was the extraordinary overhead cost associated with the administration of the program. Existing private cab companies or a city-sponsored program would already possess the requisite administrative functions.
- ASM can contribute student seg fees to a leaner enterprise that can serve a large swath of the student population than SAFECab at no additional cost to students
- Resnick continues to create programs and support initiatives that attract and retain young professionals in Madison.
- Students get a cheap option for safe ride home whether studying, working or going out late.
- The city gets buy-in from the likely largest (and steadiest) user-base, members of the University community, to jump-start the venture at a lesser cost to the city
- The cab company(ies) partnered with will profit as well from a more steady revenue alternative to traditional fares during the 10-3 hours.