Public Safety’s SafeRide Services to utilize Uber-like mobile app

The Department of Public and Environmental Safety (DPES) is implementing a mobile application for its SafeRide Services program this April, which will allow students, faculty and staff members to request rides from a campus security officer or a police officer, using a smartphone.

Kevin Maguire, director of the DPES, explained that users will be able to request a safe ride using iOS or Android mobile devices through TapRide, a phone application currently being used by 17 other college campuses and communities across the country, according to the application’s description in the Apple Store. The app was made by DoubleMap, the same application that Tufts uses to track its shuttle services.

“[TapRide is] a real-time ride hailing and dispatching mobile application for on-demand transportation…that increases ridership and efficiency while cutting costs for SafeRide programs,” according to TapRide’s website.

According to Transportation and Fleet Manager Andrea Breault, the service will be accessible to users starting in April once infrastructure needs, such as setting up computer mounts inside of the university’s SafeRide vehicles, are met.

Breault said that any Tufts user can access the mobile application using their Tufts login information and that services will cover the same area as the current program, as outlined on the Tufts University Police Department (TUPD) website.

Using this service, students will be able to utilize the app by tracking the SafeRide vehicle as it approaches the user’s pickup location, which Maguire said he hopes will keep the community even safer.

“The app provides Tufts community members, including students, with a convenient, seamless means of summoning a SafeRide and allows users of the SafeRide service to track where the SafeRide vehicle is in relation to their pickup location,” Maguire wrote in an email to the Daily. “Users can remain sheltered until they can see that the vehicle is approaching their pickup location … TapRide is safe, secure, reliable and convenient.”

Breault explained that the app will allow for greater efficiency by creating a direct connection between users and DPES staff members who are providing SafeRide services.

“The project was a collective effort through Public Safety to better execute the operations of the SafeRide program in a more efficient and [streamlined] manner,” Breault told the Daily in an email.

Maguire explained that users currently need to communicate through Public Safety’s Communications Center in order to reach the SafeRide officers, and the DPES Communications Center also experiences a high call volume for emergencies during the times when demand for SafeRide services is as its highest. The new app will allow a direct connection between users and DPES staff, streamlining the services.

“We wanted to provide the Tufts community with the ability to use their cell phones in order to directly connect with the SafeRide Service while allowing dispatchers to focus on their critical work of getting help to callers who request or need immediate assistance,” Maguire said.

Deputy Director of University Police Leon Romprey explained that the utilization of the mobile application will also allow TUPD to operate more effectively.

“The application alleviates TUPD Dispatch from taking non-emergency phone calls, which allow[s] TUPD Dispatch [in the DPES Communications Center] to focus on emergency calls with less distraction,” Romprey wrote in an email to the Daily. “The program also allows for better collection of data, which may be used to help inform other crime prevention and risk reduction strategies.”

Dispatchers in the DPES Communications Center will still be available to coordinate SafeRide Services for any individual who does not have access to a smartphone, according to Breault.

Maguire also said that community members will still need to call the TUPD dispatchers at the Communications Center directly in the event that they require immediate assistance from police services.

Romprey explained that since the majority of current SafeRide users have utilized the services for intended purposes, he and TUPD do not anticipate that the SafeRide program will be abused due to the increased ease that the app will provide.

“However, we will be monitoring usage closely over the first few weeks of the new program,” he said. “Theoretically, the wait time will deter users from abusing the application.”