Safe Ride

Amy Poppinga

Amy Poppinga

Oh, how people love the little white bus with a blue stripe.

“(Students) get really excited when the bus is there,” Ali Flesner, a junior nursing major, said. “When we sit downtown, people run to the bus ? because they think we’re going to leave them.”

“In general, everyone pretty much loves the bus,” said Luke Zimney, a senior chemistry major.

The Safe Ride Home bus – commonly known as the “Drunk Bus” – provides an alternative form of transportation to and from downtown. By running two buses on two different routes, the service helps students, whether they are drunk or not, get around town on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, said Ellie Trautman, director of the Safe Ride program.

Since it began in 2006, the service has been popular with students, said Trautman. During its first year in 2006-2007, Safe Ride provided 5,600 rides from September to May. Last year, the program’s second year, it provided 10,062 rides, an almost 80 percent increase from the previous year.

Since this September, there have been 3,600 rides, said Trautman. On Hobo Day weekend, the bus gave out 1,061 rides, or 10 percent of last year’s total, in three days.

“The response we have received has been excellent,” said Brenda Schweitzer, executive director of SDSU’s partner in the project: the Brookings Area Transit Authority (BATA).

“It has been very much a positive for the community and for campus.”

Student riders said one reason the service is popular may be the bus’s atmosphere.

“It’s definitely a friendly atmosphere, and everyone talks to each other,” said Zimney.

Flesner, a student monitor for the bus system, agreed. She said students “make friends with each other all the time,” and sometimes, they even sing together.

“One night, there were 20 some people on the bus,” said Flesner. “Fifteen of them were fraternity boys who started singing their own song, and everyone on the bus joined in.”

Zimney said he often feels this sense of camaraderie on the bus. For example, one time when he was not feeling well, a friend let him puke in her purse.

Apart from the atmosphere, students have many other reasons they appreciate the Safe Ride program.

Chris Daugaard, Students’ Association president, said the service is popular because it is free and saves students a lot of hassle. It saves them from putting their car in 72-hour parking, needing to search for a ride from downtown and having to pay impound fees if they leave their cars downtown for too long.

“It’s popular because it’s convenient and well-structured,” he said. “Students can always count on it being there.”

Seth Pasco, a junior geography major, said the service is also useful when walking is impractical.

“In the winter it’s nice to have so you don’t have to walk in the cold,” he said.

In addition to these reasons, Trautman said the service is important from a safety standpoint.

“With having the service and students knowing about it, hopefully people don’t think, ‘Oh, I’m fine; I can drive,'” said Eric Hanson, SA vice president.

“Students recognize the need to not be out there driving because they could harm others or themselves,” Trautman said.

Safe Ride started in 2006 when Ryan Brunner, then the Students’ Association president, promoted the idea. A pilot project was conducted in the spring of 2006, and in a six-week period, the bus gave out 1,300 rides, said Trautman.

According to its Web site, the Safe Ride Home program is a collaborative effort among SA, Helping Everyone Reach Optimal Health (HEROH), BATA and the Reducing Underage and Excessive Drinking (RUED) Community Coalition.

Trautman said the partnership between SDSU and BATA pays the costs associated with using BATA’s buses and its drivers.

SDSU gets its money through a National Highway Safety and Transportation Administration grant, which amounted to $48,000 for this year, and Trautman said BATA pays their half through matching funds given to the program for serving rural college-age populations. Student fees are used to pay for the student monitors.

Overall, Trautman said, Safe Ride has been successful because students feel a sense of ownership of the program and realize its importance.

“The students are so appreciative of the program; it’s refreshing,” Trautman said.

“They really have a lot of respect for it,” said Schweitzer of BATA. “It’s highly regarded by students.”

Hours of Operation: 10 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Fees: The program is meant for SDSU students only, so it is free for SDSU students and their guests.

Phone number: 695-3984 (Brookings Area Transit Authority) or 688-5181 (Students’ Association).

Web site:, keyword: SafeRide.

Ellie Trautman, director of the program, asks that students take an eight-question survey on the Web site to help her prove the need for the program and secure funds for future years.

Routes: The Blue and Yellow routes are posted on the Web site.

Rules:No food or drink, including unopened purchases.

No smoking.

Service can be refused to anyone exhibiting unacceptable behavior.

Service may be cancelled in the event of severe weather.