Uber to provide free rides for Temple students

The collaboration between SAASA and Uber will allow students to use the rides if they find themselves in unsafe situations this semester.

Ray Epstein, founder and president of Student Activists Against Sexual Assault, says that the club’s parent organization It’s On Us has secured funding for $200,000 of free Uber rides for Temple students. | FERNANDO GAXIOLA / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Updated 9/22 at 5:57 p.m.

Temple has been selected to receive up to $200,000 in free Uber rides for students trying to leave unsafe situations, thanks to a partnership between Uber and Student Activists Against Sexual Assault, a student organization that aims to combat sexual violence.

SAASA’s program is a part of a larger collaboration between It’s On Us, the club’s parent organization, and Uber to promote safety on college campuses.

“It could really drastically decrease the amount of sexual violence happening on our campus, to have that option and not be worried about the financial vulnerabilities of it,” Ray Epstein, founder and president of SAASA, told The Temple News.

Through Dec. 31, students can log in to an Uber account using their Temple email and enter the code “TempleRideHome” to redeem their vouchers. The program will compensate students for up to four $20 rides around Temple and Philadelphia, said Epstein, a junior English and communication and social influence major.

The free rides will be available in a nine-and-a-half-mile radius of Main Campus, which encompasses most of Philadelphia, parts of New Jersey and Chester County, Epstein added.

The partnership highlights three Uber safety features, including PIN verification, which gives the user a PIN when they are matched with their ride. Drivers will ask the user for the number upon arrival and if it’s correct, the ride can begin.

The rideshare app is also promoting its emergency assistance button, which appears as a blue safety shield on the app and will connect the user electronically with an emergency dispatch agent. Additionally, the “Share Your Trip” feature allows users to select five people to share their trip status with.

IOU Executive Director Tracey Vitchers believes although many students use rideshares to travel safely, there can be financial obstacles, especially because college students often spend a lot of money pursuing higher education, she said.

“By lowering the economic barrier to entry into using Uber to get home safe at night, we’re really hoping that we’re able to help our Temple students feel safe moving in and around their campus community, while also getting to learn more about how to use rideshare safely and the in-app tools that Uber provides,” Vitchers said.

The free rides are meant to be used on an honor code basis by students who need to navigate unsafe situations, like walking home alone or leaving a location where a lot of alcohol may be involved, Epstein said.

“It’s tempting to want to use a free Uber, but we do have SEPTA, we do have buddies to walk with us if we’re walking throughout Temple,” Epstein said. “If you’re with a group of people and you’re feeling safe, that’s obviously more ideal so that when someone is in an unsafe situation, they have that free ride available for them.”

Last year, Uber and IOU piloted a similar program at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, a public state university with an enrollment of 7,469 students. Uber and IOU chose to collaborate with a larger school this year, so they decided on Temple.

“Our partnership with It’s on Us National and the Temple University It’s on Us Chapter will provide students in need with an option for a way to get to and from campus and will act as a model as we explore bringing this program to other campuses around the country,” wrote Julia Paige, head of Global Social Impact at Uber, in a statement to The Temple News.

While IOU and Uber have partnered to promote rideshare safety since 2022, this is the first year Uber is partnering directly with IOU student chapters to further promote safety tips, Paige wrote.

IOU opted to partner with universities that have very active chapters with strong student leadership and engagement in order to reach the most students with this program, Vitchers said.

“Temple is one of our most active chapters in the US right now,” Vitchers said. “Ray and the rest of the chapter members have done a really great job working with It’s On Us to develop previous campaigns.”

SAASA, which was revived by Epstein during the Fall 2022 semester, won Student Organization of the Year and Best Collaboration at the Student Activities Awards on May 7.

“We’re really excited that we’re able to bring this to Temple and to do it more on a large scale than we did last year with one university and really get to see the impact throughout the course of the fall with this partnership,” Vitchers said.

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