San Luis Obispo residents and visitors now have a safe, reliable and cheap way of getting home after a night of partying: SLO Safe Rides.
After officially starting the business at the beginning of this summer, SLO Safe Ride Founders, English senior Michael Linn and San Luis Obispo resident Trevor Freeman passed the trial stages and are now looking for their business to flourish.
“We’re expecting this to do well,” Linn said. “We’ve both been in SLO for a while, and we wanted to do something that would help people out.”
The founders’ intention is to help more than just intoxicated patrons downtown. Students, residents, bar staff members, the San Luis Obispo Police Department (SLOPD) and the four cab companies in the area will benefit from another transportation option, Linn said.
“We whole-heartedly support any effort to get people not to drive under the influence,” SLOPD lieutenant Bill Proll said. “Anytime we see those vans with people in it, that’s a success to us because those are people who probably shouldn’t be driving.”
The program was made possible by funding from an unconventional source. Last year, Linn won $609,493 with his first-place finish at Event 49 of the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. While his win doesn’t account for the entirety of SLO Safe Rides startup money, it made up a significant portion, Linn said.
Linn and Freeman said they hope to lure in a new clientele based on offering safe rides home, a convenient transportation option and affordable pricing.
“If you pay for the all night pass, you don’t have to pay a cover charge at any bar,” Linn said.
A flat $5 fee will be charged per-person looking to go from one stop to another, regardless of the mileage. Customers who want access to the vans for the entire night, in addition to avoiding cover charges, will have to pay $10, Linn said.
SLO Safe Rides is available to the public from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. Thursday through Saturday nights, and their charter service is available 24-7.
SLO Ride currently has four 15-seat passenger vans and plan on adding two 22-seat buses. It also has six drivers and is looking to employ security guards to ride on the buses with passengers.
In order to get all the details ironed out, Linn and Freeman are working with the city to fill out the necessary paperwork. The California Public Utilities Commission granted them approval on July 14, but there are still questions that need to be answered.
“One impact might be the use of 15-passenger vans on 30-minute headways in neighborhoods during the evening and early morning periods,” transit manager for the city of San Luis Obispo John Webster said.
The van and bus schedules will not drop off passengers at their individual destinations, but rather run in a similar way as SLO Transit. Continuous 30-minute loops consisting of approximately eight stops per route will be made from the downtown area to four other residential neighborhoods: Cal Poly/Hathway Avenue, Foothill Boulevard, Los Osos Valley Roadand Johnson Avenue.
There have been other attempts at providing rides for the busy nightlife in San Luis Obispo, but none have gathered sufficient amounts of customers to stay operational, according to Peers Understanding Listening Speaking Educationg (PULSE) peer health educator Clare Farrington.
“There was a safe ride program but it lost its funding,” Farrington said. “Now we tell students to have one of the cards on them at all times, or to take a picture of it with their phone.”
Dial-A-Ride cards are provided at the Health and Counseling Services on campus. PULSE is interested to learn more about SLO Safe Ride and hopes to offer its services to students in the future, Farrington said.
There are a number of citizens, businesses and city employees who will benefit from a new means of transportation, but the main idea is for all parties involved is the safety of the public.
“We’re very much in favor of the concept of making sure people downtown have another alternative to get home,” Assistant City Manager Michael Codron said.