Student Union and Lyft to subsidize late-night rides through Nov. 5
The Student Union and Lyft partnered to provide a $5 discount on rides between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.
The Student Union and rideshare giant Lyft are partnering to subsidize late-night rides this week for students as part of a plan to educate on safe rideshare habits and eliminate critical gaps in transportation that often compromise student safety, Union President Simran Tatuskar ’21 announced in an email to the Brandeis community last Tuesday.
During the subsidy’s trial period, which began on Oct. 22 and lasts through Nov. 5, students can get a $5 discount on rides between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. by entering the code BRANDEIS19 in the Lyft app. Students can travel to any location to or from campus during those hours using the subsidy, per the same email.
According to Tatuskar, the program is part of a larger Union focus on improving transportation and seeks to alleviate problems of students walking to off-campus housing late at night or waiting long periods of time for the Waltham BranVan. Other Union projects in this vein include the Market Basket Shuttle and the commuter rail subsidy.
Tatuskar, who spearheaded the project, told the Justice during an interview on Thursday that “transportation has always consistently been an issue on this campus. I know a lot of students [who live off campus] have complained if they miss the BranVan, they have to stay on campus for 30 minutes because there’s no other way to get home safely. … Sometimes you’ll see students walking back really late at night on the weekends because they … can’t pay for a Lyft or for an Uber.”
Lyft will send the usage data to the Union after the conclusion of the trial period, which the Union will use to determine if the program should continue on a long-term basis. The Union will receive a map with the general areas students travel to using the subsidy but will not see exact addresses due to privacy filters, Tatuskar said.
Lyft’s Senior Marketing Associate for New England declined to comment for this article because the parties have not yet negotiated a contract, and the Regional Director of New England did not respond to a request for comment.
“We’re gonna get the metrics sent to us afterwards, looking at the amount of usage, looking at where students have been using [it], during what hours and kind of planning on using that data to see if it’s more feasible to have a long-term discount that’s funded by the Student Union,” Tatuskar said.
Tatuskar said that the safety of off-campus students was at the forefront of her concerns when thinking about solutions to transportation gaps. Campus safety has recently come under increased scrutiny, especially after the stabbing of two graduate students near campus on Sept. 23. The incident provoked a heated discussion about the resources allocated by the University for off-campus safety and led to questions about how the University and off-campus students can shore up gaps in security measures.
Though the stabbing was a point of concern for Tatuskar, the timing of the program in relation to the incident was a coincidence, she said. The program is not meant to be a permanent solution to safety issues, but can help in the interim, she said. Chief of Public Safety Ed Callahan wrote in an email to the Justice on Saturday that he did not know about the program.
Tatuskar said, “After looking at the instance of violence happening off campus, that made me more concerned about our off-campus students. We’ve been working with Ed Callahan and BranPo to have BranPo go off campus and talk to any concerned students about how they can make their homes safer, but I wanted to see if there was something more tangible that we could offer, and so this seemed like a good solution.”
Callahan did not comment on any plans to expand Brandeis Police services to off-campus locations.
Although extended BranVan hours could alleviate some of the transportation issues, Tatuskar said the potential for long waits and the fact that students “can’t really get dropped off from point A to point B” via the BranVan still showed a need for rideshare services.
Lyft is funding the $5 discount during the trial period, but any subsequent discount would be covered by the Union’s budget, she said. Tatuskar said she would speak with administrators about matching funding for the subsidy if it were to continue long-term. Any further discount code would be available later this semester or early next semester.
Tatuskar said that Lyft reached out to her at the end of September about the project. The subsidy was originally supposed to run from Oct. 1 through Oct. 15, but Tatuskar said she decided that having the subsidy during Halloween would be more helpful to students.
The subsidy is not part of a partnership program, but rather is negotiated between Lyft and individual universities. Discounted rideshare services are available at several institutions, including the University of Chicago, the University of Alabama and the Ohio State University, per Lyft’s press releases.