Since late 2016, changes let Safewalk serve more students

Safewalk has seen improvement over the last year after the implementation of new changes, such as the T-Birds varsity players’ escort and their cancellation penalty, began to take effect in late 2016.

Safewalk is a transportation service provided by the AMS for students who feel unsafe walking around campus in the evening or night hours. As the second-oldest AMS service, Safewalk has an average of 300 to 600 transfers per month, with October and April as the two busiest months of the year.

According to Marium Hamid, the AMS student services manager, Safewalk currently has a team of 25 to 30 people. On one night, five people are on duty: one dispatcher and two pairs of male and female escorts. Two additional escort teams are provided during peak periods, like during the Block Party last year.

The previous staffing situation hardly kept up with the increasing demand. As a result, the changes to Safewalk were proposed around late 2016, which includes Thunderbirds football players’ volunteer escorts on Fridays. This change began implementation at the beginning of 2017.

“We are very grateful and we want to continue doing this as this was helpful to ease the staff’s burden on peak times, such as Fridays. Without their help, Safewalk would have longer transfer times, or possibly take longer for us to go get people, especially when it’s raining outside,” explained Marium.

Even though it would be difficult to match up volunteering hours with their busy touring schedule, The T-bird varsity players did help to cut down the waiting time for faster transfer and increase the ride turnover by 15 to 20 per cent per night.

“By having additional walking teams, it is easier for us to send the varsity players out with some of our staff and for the process to be expedited,” said Hamid.

In addition, to have T-birds football player as an additional escort, the introduction of new penalty system was also put into effect since November 2016 as a way to curb misuse of the service.

Within a few months of implementation, the penalty system has given positive changes to Safewalk’s overall performances, according to Hamid.

“The number of students misusing the service had decreased by 20 per cent if compared to before the policy was being implemented. Wait times also have gone down, which is a good news for us,” she explained.

In spite of those two successful changes, Hamid saw that it is highly necessary to constantly make changes to the service.

“We are constantly making sure that the student access to the service continues to increase and improve over time.”

The other alternative that Safewalk had in mind to better improve the services was using bikes to cut waiting times to the designated point of the walk. However, there are challenges to this model that require a lot more discussion and thorough thinking before they are implemented.

“We are still considering this option,” she said. “Everyone still has until the end of the year to reflect on what we have done to see whether or not there are ways we can do it better.”

Despite the numerous changes made to Safewalk over the last few years, Hamid believes that Safewalk is still striving to do their best to serve students at their interest.

“We hope that going forward, we do get a chance to work more with Rob McCloy and the rest of [UBC’s] Campus Security team to know which ways we can mutually assist one another to make the campus more safe and secure.”