To schedule a ride from dark until 12:15 a.m. Sun.-Thu. or 1:15 a.m. Friday and Saturday, call 303-492-7233.
Visit tinyurl.com/cunightride for more info.
University of Colorado senior Paige Wilson starts up the silver 2010 Volkswagen Jetta parked across the street from the University Memorial Center about 7 p.m. Wednesday.
Black leather interior squeaks as she adjusts the driver’s seat back slightly and the touch-screen console lights up while she searches the radio stations for something upbeat.
The walkie-talkie resting against Wilson’s leg screeches with static before the call comes in.
“Seventy to 79,” from the dispatcher at the reception desk in the UMC.
“79 to 70,” Wilson replies.
It’s the start of Wilson’s shift as a driver for NightRide — a free cab service provided to CU students, faculty and staff — and dispatch is sending in her first call.
NightRide staffs six drivers a night to chauffeur the CU population anywhere in the Boulder city limits. Driving services are available beginning around dark until 12:15 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 1:15 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
The majority of clients are students studying late on campus who don’t want to catch the bus or walk home after dark, Wilson said.
“It doesn’t matter why they need a ride though,” Wilson said. “We don’t pass judgment. We just want them to get home, or wherever they’re going safely.”
CU sophomore Meghan Mcfarland said she hasn’t used the service this year but she did use it as a freshman to get home from campus after a late-night cram session.
“I lived in Will Vill and the bus isn’t very reliable that late at night,” Mcfarland said.
Senior Bianca Bzdell said she used NightRide to party on the Hill as a freshman but not since. Even though she hasn’t used it in more than three years, Bzdell said she still thinks the service is worth the student fee that funds NightRide, about $2.26 per student, per semester, according to UMC director Carlos Garcia.
“The bars close at 2 a.m. and NightRide isn’t running that late so we don’t use it to get home,” Bzdell said. “It’s definitely a great service but I think it mostly benefits freshmen girls.”
Bzdell said the service is perceived by most students as something for freshmen or for women who are going home alone. Male students often think they don’t need to use the service because they can “handle themselves” and a lot of students who go out at night do so in groups, she said.
“That’s just what we’ve always thought the advertisements made it seem like,” Bzdell said.
Wilson encourages more students to make use of the service despite any perceptions that may follow.
“Getting home safely is what matters,” Wilson said. “I don’t care what anyone thinks, that’s the No. 1 thing.”
Wilson, who is now the NightRide director, has been working as a driver since her sophomore year.
Saturday is CU’s first home football game of the season, giving Wilson reason to think the weekend shifts will be busier than normal.
Her first call of the night is two CU students, one on crutches, who need to be picked up at the UMC and dropped at home, about a mile and a half from campus.
NightRide also offers reservations that can be made up to an hour in advance, Wilson said.
Beyond perks including a schedule that rarely conflicts with classes and getting paid to socialize with her peers, Wilson said the gratitude expressed by passengers is what keeps her coming back to the job.
“Everyone who gets a ride is appreciative when they get out,” Wilson said. “They’re usually like ‘thanks so much, I don’t know what I would do without you.'”