A student waits at a bus stop bench late at night in front of a graphic of a clock at 2:20 a.m.
Design by Tye Kalinovic

The late-night transportation services offered by the University of Michigan have provided nearly 100,000 rides to students since 2016, according to an email statement from Nicholas Gallo, communications manager for U-M Logistics, Transportation & Parking. According to Gallo, before the COVID-19 pandemic, between 70 and 90 students were given rides home each night. In October, November and December of 2022, an average of 47, 56 and 61 rides were provided to students per night, respectively. 

The University offers several late-night transportation options, both directly through the University and through outside vendors such as Golden Limousine. Student options Ride Home, State Street Ride, Michigan Medicine Late-Night Shuttles and Emergency Ride Home are provided through Golden Limousine, while SafeRide is provided directly by the University. Between all services, transportation is provided to U-M students 24 hours a day and seven days a week. 

SafeRide is available for all students, faculty and staff with a valid Mcard who need a ride within a one-mile radius of campus between the hours of 8 p.m. and 2 a.m. Beyond providing rides to students late at night, SafeRide helps students who have disabilities or injuries navigate cross-campus commutes to classes. In an email to The Daily, Gallo explained how SafeRide functions. 

“An employee from U-M Transit Services will come to your campus location and drive you to your requested location (within a one-mile driving radius of Central and North Campuses),” Gallo wrote. “During non-service hours, alternative service providers may be identified by UMPD.”

Students are limited to one ride per night through SafeRide and six trips per year with Emergency Ride Home — the only service operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Gallo said the one-ride policy is to ensure availability of transportation for anyone who needs to get home after regular bus hours.

“The SafeRide service is intended for trips where students, faculty or staff might not feel safe or after regular bus service has discontinued for the evening,” Gallo wrote. “It’s a safe ride to your final destination for the night … Resources can be constrained if the service is used for multiple trips per person in an evening. Should someone need to travel to multiple locations, they should consider using a rideshare app like Uber, Lyft or May Mobility.”

LSA sophomore James Hackworth used the late-night transportation service SafeRide for several months between September 2022 and December 2022 following an ankle injury. In an interview with The Daily, Hackworth noted he had initial difficulties with using SafeRide due to the website being outdated before he later found its app, TapRide. 

“I initially tried to use the phone number on the website,” Hackworth said. “However, I found this to have an incorrect operating time and after waiting for a few hours, I gave up for a few days until I found out that (TapRide) is managed directly by the drivers and a coordinator from Transportation Services.”

TapRide was launched in January 2017 following a high demand for a more accessible method of booking rides. As of 2018, the app is used on nine university campuses and six transit locations.

Hackworth described his experience with the app as an overall positive one with some caveats. 

“The app overall is clunky but it works,” Hackworth said. “It will randomly disconnect and reconnect. It also does not automatically prompt for notifications — or at least did not for me — making me not realize a feature (that) alerts you when the driver is here existed until one of the drivers informed me. When I place my information into the app, it will sometimes disconnect mid-way and force me to put it in again.”

Hackworth said he sometimes had to wait up to two hours for a ride home. 

“The biggest issues I have had with the app have been primarily with the waiting time,” Hackworth said. “After a confirmation on the app, it needs to be accepted by someone from the campus. In September, my main complaint was that after waiting for sometimes up to an hour, my ride may be randomly canceled or switched to another driver, extending my wait time.”

Hackworth said as the semester progressed, he experienced longer wait times instead of cancellations.

“The drivers that I talked to would often complain about a lack of staffing or the difficulty with the app to coordinate group pick-ups from central campus,” Hackworth said. “I am unsure if their staffing took a big hit, but I only saw the same three people for the latter parts of November until the semester ended.”

Gallo attributed these cancellations and delays to weather, construction detours and staffing. 

“LTP manages the late-night services,” Gallo wrote. “While LTP strives for reliable service, there may be occasions when wait times are longer than usual. Due to weather, construction detours and staffing. We encourage the use of the TapRide app, phone calls are a secondary method (should the app go down) as the goal is (to) keep people safe.”

In December 2016, SafeRide expanded its hours from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. to 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. following multiple crime alerts for hate crimes. There have been no changes to the University’s late-night transportation system since then.

Kareem Rifai, Central Student Government communications director, told The Daily in an email that CSG has not had a major role in late-night transportation for students apart from advocating for the service.

“CSG has had a limited role in late-night transportation besides advocacy,” he wrote. “We’ve had conversations with DPSS, Lyft, and Student Life to find more solutions and identify improvements that can be made to existing programs.”

Daily Staff Reporter Sneha Dhandapani can be reached at sdhanda@umich.edu.