Safewalk is upgrading the software that they use to provide safe transportation around campus.
The service originally went digital in 2014. The idea was to increase efficiency and improve the collection of statistics on Safewalk usage following increases in use. The service began by using Google’s coordinating software, but were forced to find a new program when the company announced in 2016 it would no longer be providing the software.
According to Eric Bock, Safewalk coordinator, much of the software used by other universities were very expensive, upwards of $40,000. As an alternative, Ron Gorodetsky, AMS student services manager, approached a student-run development company at the University of Victoria to provide a cheaper and specialized software for Safewalk.
“We found a group of students at the University of Victoria who showed interest in developing the software for us and they began working on it in September. In the span of three months, we had a beta version up and ready to test,” said Gorodetsky. “[We now] have a solution which costs us as much as Google maps coordinate did for the one year term, but it also has additional features.”
While the new program has improved efficiency and allowed Safewalk to keep up demand, the larger issue of consistently rising usage remains. Safewalk usage rates are still steadily increasing and have reached record levels of as many as 2400 walks in a month.
In addition, many people are abusing the program as awareness of the service increases, especially since the introduction of two cars to Safewalk’s service. According to Bock and Gorodetsky, some people are seeing Safewalk as a way to get across campus faster or with heavy bags.
“Please only use [Safewalk] if you really need it [and] if you really have a concern for your safety crossing campus,” said Gorodetsky, pointing out that if more people use Safewalk irresponsibly, then wait times will increase and people who are truly in need of the service will not be able to use it.