Giddy up ‘Stangs: Students, staff comment on ride service
It’s 2 a.m. and SMU is dark. It’s also cold. It’s December and many students can be found in the library making the final sprint to winter break. Lauren Mensing has been sitting outside of Fondren Library for 20 minutes, waiting for Giddy Up to pick her up and take her back to her dorm safely.
After waiting nearly half an hour Mensing, a freshman at the time, was forced to give up on her safe ride and walk home. Luckily she had a friend to walk with.
“Every time I call Giddy Up I always get a busy signal, and if anyone does answer they either hang up or don’t come,” said Mensing, who is now a junior.
Giddy Up is the on-campus transportation system that consists of a fleet of 12 golf carts that run from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. in order to provide students with a safe ride and increase security around campus.
Mark Rhodes, the Director of Parking and ID Card Services, which is in charge of the Giddy Up program, is aware the program’s wait-time and phone issues. The program is currently in the process of hiring three new positions, with one dedicated solely to answering the phone.
This year has provided a unique challenge for the Giddy Up program as well, as the student population on campus has doubled. With the new residential commons and two-year live-on policy recently implemented at SMU, the same fleet from last year now has to service twice the amount of students. In addition, many of the carts are electric and therefore cannot run through a full eight-hour shift without needing to be recharged.
During the day, the program has two drivers around campus to pick up students with injuries or those who look like they may be in need of assistance. The program has also recently acquired two handicap accessible carts. To contact Giddy Up and request a ride, call (214) 768-1111.
The program, which has been on campus for years, has only been run by SMU Parking Services since 2007, when they took the program over from the SMU Police Department. After the contract was taken over it fell to Rhodes, who is in charge of parking service and most contracts that concern transportation for SMU students. The program’s supervisor, Richard Holloway, can be found driving one of the carts around campus on most nights.
“I really do think that Giddy Up provides not only a service, but is a tremendous asset to this campus,” said Rhodes.
Rhodes is especially proud of the addition of handicap accessible carts, for which the program received funding from the President’s Advisory Committee on the Needs of Persons with Disabilities.
Rhodes views these carts as an enormous asset to the campus and never more so than in their first months on rotation. During the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Library, these two carts helped to transport Attorney General of Texas Greg Abbott, and Lex Frieden, who is credited as being the primary architect of the American with Disabilities Act, who are both wheelchair bound.
After getting ready for a birthday dinner with her friends earlier this semester, Rachel Kennedy was running late. She knew she wouldn’t make it across campus from Lloyd Hall to where she was meeting her friends in Shuttles in time. “I called legitimately nine times in a row and no one picked up,” said first-year Kennedy of her Giddy Up experience that night.
Lauren Brandt lives in the residential commons and stated that she understood that Giddy Up has a demand and would often rather walk.
“Unless I’m way across campus and it’s late at night, I try to walk,” says first-year finance major Brandt.
It is not possible to have every driver out every night; on most busy nights there are between four and six drivers on duty, said Rhodes. All of the Giddy Up drivers are certified security guards in the state of Texas. Rhodes decided not to put the drivers in uniform, aside from a Giddy Up polo and khakis, because he feared more formal uniforms would deter ridership.
The point of the program is to transport students safely around campus. Even though a large part of that security comes from the drivers, Rhodes believes that drivers in uniforms would intimidate many students. Student’s fear of getting in trouble would outweigh their desire to get home safely, and thus the point of Giddy Up would be defeated.
Graduate students have done research on ways to maximize Giddy Up efficiency, Rhodes said. There is even talk of an “Uber-like” app, where you could call Giddy Up to your location via mobile phone.
Tips for optimizing your ride:
1) Be patient. Calling over and over only jams the server and ruins everyone’s chances of getting through
2) Don’t travel alone. There is safety in numbers, if you cant get a Giddy Up, get a group together.
3) Be mindful. Getting up is a safety precaution, not necessarily a convenience. While they are happy to pick you up if you need a ride, they are there to help you get across campus safely.