How to Get Home 101
By: Greg Barton (Class of 2016)
My name is Greg Barton, and I am a senior CIS Major, Vice President of Tau Kappa Epsilon, and volunteer for JMU SafeRides. Over the past four years, I have noticed that many students, especially incoming freshmen, are unaware of all of the available options for safely getting home on the weekends. This post is for anyone who has ever left their house on the weekend for a night out without a plan for getting home. So, what are ALL of your options? Let me break it down for you!
Services that Cost Money:
Taxis- We all know how taxis work, but here is some useful information specific to Harrisonburg. The four major taxi services (ABC Cab Co., Checkered Cab, Yellow Cab, and Royal Cab) are available 24/7 and have the same city-determined rates: It costs $3.50 to get into a cab and $1.80 per mile (If you travel outside of Harrisonburg this rate increases). Note that taxi services expect a tip of some kind, and it is proper etiquette to tip at least 15-20%.
Uber- New to Harrisonburg, Uber requires you to download their app, create an account, and enter your credit card information (You can’t pay with cash). Uber’s prices and availability fluctuate based on the city’s supply and demand. However, Uber has been shown to beat the price of traditional cab systems in other cities. Uber drivers must complete a background check and are given ratings from other drivers. If you need to cancel your Uber, you have up to five minutes after the driver accepts before you’ll be charged a $5-$10 cancellation fee. One thing to keep in mind is that, unlike taxis, Uber charges for the time that the car is parked. So, if you or your friends aren’t ready to leave, you might have to pay for that time as well. Tips are encouraged, but not required.
If you’re like me and money doesn’t come easily to you, these are the best options available. At the end of the day, what I care about most is that people get home safely. However, as a member of SafeRides, let me also tell you about the benefits of choosing our program:
JMU SafeRides- We are a student run, non-profit organization whose mission is to create a safer community for the city of Harrisonburg. We offer a free, nonjudgmental ride home to JMU students. We volunteer Fridays and Saturdays during the semester from 10:00 PM to 3:00 AM (pending weather and if school is in session). Simply call our office at 540-JMU-RIDE to add your name to our queue. Our number is also on the back of your JAC card.
Now, just because our number is on your JAC card does NOT mean we are going to report you to the University or Harrisonburg police for drinking! We do NOT collect or distribute any of your information. We simply verify that you are a student for safety purposes, and the ride is completely anonymous. This is why we call our rides “non-judgemental”. Our goal is to get you home safe – end of story! Our priority is simply to ensure your safety and the safety of the JMU community. With that in mind, we only provide rides to residential locations. We are your ride home, not your ride to the party.
If you’ve never tried SafeRides, give it a shot! Or, at least keep our number as your backup plan. It can’t hurt to plan ahead, especially when you’re in a clear state of mind.
Since our service is popular, we do experience high call volumes during peak hours. Around 11:00 PM to 12:00 AM, you can expect longer wait times. Feel free to call the office ahead of time to see how many names are ahead of you on the queue. We can’t give exact wait time estimates, but this semester we’ll be running six cars every night, and occasionally seven.
Other Free Services:
Bus System- There are apps available for both iPhone and Android that allow you to see available routes and arrival times for the Harrisonburg bus system. In addition, if you ever wait at a bus stop, there are QR codes on the bus stop signs, that, when scanned with your phone, tell you approximately how many minutes it will be until the next bus arrives. Be aware that the bus does not service all housing locations on the weekends and doesn’t run 24 hours a day.
Ask the Host – Believe it or not, party hosts are often sober to ensure their house isn’t destroyed! Don’t hesitate to ask a party host if they know of available sober rides, or even if it’s cool for you to crash on their couch. Fraternities also often have sober drivers available on the weekends for those seeking a ride home from their parties. Don’t feel embarrassed to ask.
JMU Safety Escort – If you feel unsafe at a party or on your walk home, JMU offers a Safety Escort service until 2 or 3 AM all week long. Police officers will provide safety escorts during other times, and for locations off campus. The police department’s non-emergency number is also on the back of your JAC card.
Most of all, use good judgement and plan ahead! SafeRides is here to serve you and make sure your night ends safely and comfortably. Stay safe and have a wonderful semester!