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Northwestern partners with Via for Safe Ride program

Partnership will provide more vehicles, driver-hours in new school year

Northwestern University is partnering with on-demand mobility company Via this academic year to run its Safe Ride program, which provides safe transit at night for students on and around the University’s Evanston campus.

Northwestern decided to partner with Via in response to student feedback about Safe Ride, and after examining data for Safe Ride use over the past two years. By partnering with Via, students will see a 38% increase in the total number of hours that drivers are available, utilizing an increased number of dedicated and trained drivers each night.

Via provides on-demand transportation for universities and colleges across the country, including Harvard and Northeastern universities, as well as some of the world’s largest transit authorities.

“Via has a demonstrated record as a transportation partner with other universities,” said Julie Payne-Kirchmeier, Northwestern’s interim vice president for Student Affairs. “We are confident they will create a ride service that is more available and able to meet the needs of our Northwestern students.”

Isabel Dobbel, president of Northwestern’s Associated Student Government, said wait times and past app difficulties have disproportionately affected low-income students on campus.

“Many times, students would request a private ride, paid for by themselves, through a separate app,” Dobbel said. “The Safe Rides partnership with Via shows potential to improve the user side of the experience, remove a difficult barrier for low-income students and increase access to safe and free transportation on campus.”

Northwestern’s partnership with Via means Safe Ride will continue to provide unlimited free rides for all undergraduate and graduate students, increasing campus safety by making it easier than ever to request a ride on-demand. As in years past, the Safe Ride program will operate seven days a week from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. during the fall, winter and spring quarters. Under the partnership, more vehicles and driver times will be available to students, a move designed to decrease wait times.

Safe Ride drivers will be paid an hourly rate instead of per ride. Drivers will be carefully selected with preference given to those with the highest ratings, positive customer feedback and the best driving records.

“We are delighted to partner with Northwestern University to bring a new level of convenience and efficiency to the school’s Safe Ride program,” said Daniel Ramot, co-founder and CEO of Via. “Students shouldn’t have to think twice about getting around campus safely. We’re looking forward to providing students with a smart, efficient and sustainable campus transportation solution.”

The University’s partnership with Via is a one-year pilot program. While the University is confident the partnership will provide improved service, it will evaluate the partnership on a regular basis, and will engage key stakeholders in a process aimed at identifying a multi-year solution for the program.