Students drive along Seaver Drive, lined with parallel-parked cars. The SGA Lyft partnership helps those without cars get around Malibu. Photo by Ella Coates
Pepperdine’s Student Government Association introduced a partnership with the rideshare app Lyft on Dec. 1. Another transportation-related resolution, establishing the Pepperdine Accessibility Service, passed the same day.
The two programs contributed to what SGA President and senior Chase Johnson called a “theme of mobility” in student government last semester.
“It’s kind of in that theme of mobility, but also accessibility, which is really important to a lot of students, including myself,” Johnson said.
Lyft Ride Smart
The SGA Lyft Ride Smart pilot program gives students a Lyft Pass providing a $10 discount on six rides per month.
The pass automatically applies when passholders take rides starting or ending at the Malibu campus during hours SGA has set. Executive Vice President and senior Madison Walker introduced the Lyft partnership idea in her campaign last year.
“Honestly, I’m not even sure where I first found [the program],” Walker said. “I think I was looking on Harvard or some large Ivy League school, and I came across something about a Lyft partnership.”
Walker said she knew the Lyft program would benefit students because she spent a lot of money on Uber rides during her first year when she did not have a car. Uber does not have a college campus program like Lyft does, though.
Students voiced support for Walker bringing a rideshare discount to Pepperdine, Walker said. She said she even received direct messages on social media from students asking for the program. Walker saw it as an opportunity to make an impact.
“I feel like the executive vice president doesn’t have as much of a set role,” Walker said. “Finance obviously doing receipts, [VP of administration] is scheduling everything and then [Chase Johnson] is like, spokesperson. I felt like I could kind of make my position my own.”
To launch the partnership, Walker worked with Lyft over the summer. The company gave her one contact to meet with and discuss the program’s details. When SGA members returned to campus the week before New Student Orientation, Walker met with members of the Pepperdine administration.
Director of Public Safety Dawn Emrich and Chief Operating Officer Phil Phillips met with Walker and SGA advisor Brittany Skinner. Phillips agreed to match SGA’s contribution to the Lyft program’s budget, meaning the University turned a $15,000 pot into $30,000.
“We haven’t even touched [Philips’] funding yet,” Walker said. “It’s all coming from the SGA budget right now. But if necessary, he was willing to fund it.”
Johnson said SGA started the Lyft partnership to help students, especially ones living on-campus without cars, get around Malibu.
“There doesn’t need to be a beach shuttle if you can use the Lyft discount,” Johnson said. “There has been a demand for transportation to Ralphs, the Country Mart and the beach, so this kind of solves that problem.”
Although on-campus residents may be more likely to not have a car and ride in Lyfts around Malibu, off-campus students, like senior Camryn Moss, have used the discount as well.
“I wish I had it my freshman year,” Moss said. “I really would have gotten more use out of it, so I definitely think it’s good that they are doing it.”
Moss said she used the pass once to take a Lyft from campus to the Malibu Country Mart, and the discount covered the cost of her trip.
An SGA email informed Moss about the Lyft pass, and she said signing up was easy. Moss said she wished that the location was not just restricted to rides started or ending on campus and that the pass offered a larger discount.
“If you’re going to, like, actually into LA or something, it’s so expensive,” Moss said. “Yeah, $10 is nice, but I mean, [on] an $80 Uber, $70 is still a lot of money.”
Pepperdine Accessibility Service Introduced
Lyft helps move students around Malibu, but the accessibility service resolution aims to help move students around campus.
Freshman Class Senator Myers Mentzer wrote a resolution to support the PAS, and SGA passed it Dec. 1 with unanimous approval.
The resolution points to the successes of similar programs, like the Disabled Access to Road Transportation program at the University of Southern California, and the shortcoming of the system at Pepperdine. Students with mobility restraints get rides around campus from the Department of Public Safety, and the PAS resolution quoted three students who had poor experiences with the program.
“Basically, [PAS] is designed to create a program for students to drive around on golf carts that are handicap accessible, or to drive in wheelchair accessible vans,” Johnson said. “People who are on our campus […] can use that service to get to class, or to go to an event, or to fully access the campus to a greater extent than they already can.”
Walker said she and other SGA members spoke to a woman in a wheelchair during NSO in August, and the woman told them about her struggles navigating the campus.
“That kind of made us think, ‘Okay, there needs to be a solution to the accessibility issues,’” Walker said. “If parents are struggling to be able to go through NSO, it’s no fun.”
SGA has not worked out the details of the PAS with the University, but Johnson said he would like SGA to work with the University to fund and implement the service this semester.
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