A Lyft driver takes a student around Columbus on Sept. 5, 2019. Credit: Cori Wade | Assistant Photo Editor

One month in, the Lyft Ride Smart partnership with Ohio State has created a safer way for students to get home, but it has also been a source of some confusion among students. 

The program, which replaced the free Safe Ride program, has received positive feedback from users and provided students with a far shorter wait time than the previous safety ride program, university spokesperson Dan Hedman said in an email. However, some students have found it difficult to sign up for the rideshare program or are hesitant to ride with strangers.

Ohio State’s Transportation and Traffic Management website said Ride Smart offers rides to students between the hours of 9 p.m. and 3 a.m. in university-designated service areas. The cost for each ride is expected to be $2 or less after the university’s $5 credit is applied. 

Students who are enrolled in the university are able to get the discounted ride as long as they hit the shared ride option on the Lyft app and have their school email linked to the account, according to the Transportation and Traffic Management website. 

About 2,000 discounted rides were used through the program after students returned mid-August, which is ahead of pace compared to the old Safe Ride program, Hedman said. 

“For comparison, 2,000 rides are about what Safe Ride offered in a full month so we are ahead of that pace after the first few weeks,” Hedman said.

The wait time has decreased to only three to five minutes compared to the Safe Ride wait time of about 20 to 30 minutes, Hedman said. 

Cade Santha, a third-year in information systems, has used the Ride Smart program and said he was able to get home while he was alone at night and there were no buses readily available. 

“I think it is absolutely wonderful to have someone there at the push of a button,” Santha said. “I think Lyft is more situational and you’re able to be more spontaneous with it.” 

However, Santha said that the cost of the rides can be troublesome, as the previous program offered free rides. 

“My one concern with the program is what happens if a student is unable to pay the $2-3 that’s estimated to be added onto the ride,” Santha said. “Thankfully in my situation I can, but I know other students on campus who are unable to use the service now.” 

According to an Ohio State press release from the Aug.1 launch, Lyft Ride Smart will serve the same area as Safe Ride: north to Hudson Street, south to Fifth Avenue, east to Conrail railroad tracks, and west to North Star Road. The north boundary west of Olentangy River Road is Ackerman Road.

As of now, the university does not plan to make any changes to the program but it is continuing to monitor it, Hedman said. It anticipates ridership growth in the month of September since students just returned mid-August. 

In terms of growth, there has been a dramatic 20 -percent increase in rider usage every weekend, Julia Dennen, vice president of Undergraduate Student Government, said at Wednesday’s General Assembly meeting. 

The 2,000 rides that were used are only one-fifth of the 10,000 rides offered per month. 

Brooke Heitmeyer, a fourth-year in psychology, said in a text message that she is very interested in using the program, but the directions on how to work the program are too vague, so she hasn’t been able to utilize it.

“It would be great if OSU could acknowledge this and further explain so that students can have another safe option for rides on weekends and at night,” Heitmeyer said. 

Alyssa Blickensderfer, a fourth-year in health science who also drives for Lyft, said in a text message that even though the people she would have to share a Lyft with are other Ohio State students, she doesn’t feel comfortable sharing a Lyft with a stranger.

“I just thought it was weird because personally I wouldn’t want to share a Lyft with people I don’t know,” Blickensderfer said. “Maybe I would feel safer knowing they’re students.”

Lyft provides GPS location tracking of its rides so it can monitor where the driver is as well as where the driver is taking the passenger, according to Transportation and Traffic Management website

“We advise riders to ask the driver who they are picking up and to ensure they confirm the vehicle information (license plate, model, color) matches their reservation before entering,” Hedman said.