From a roll, the Emory University SafeRide shuttle screeched to a stop on the street between Emory Hospital buildings on Sunday night (Xavier Stevens/Emory Wheel)

From a roll, the Emory University SafeRide shuttle screeched to a stop on the street between Emory Hospital buildings on Sunday night. Three people —a whispering couple and an asleep student — sat in the shuttle’s white light en route to the Clairmont campus. The driver, Shantay Mitchell, honked and pulled her lever to swing the doors open toward a student walking alone in the dark.

“You didn’t want to call a ride?” she yelled out the doors.

“I was just going to walk,” the student said. The response was one that Mitchell hears all too often, but she recognized the student by face as a SafeRide regular.

“No, come on!” Mitchell said. The student smiled and stepped onto the shuttle. 

Mitchell passed through the gates of Starvine Way and reached Clairmont in five minutes, where she dropped off the four students. 

It was a quiet night for Mitchell, who volunteered her Saturday and Sunday nights to drive SafeRide—Emory’s free and on-demand shuttle service. It operates on the Atlanta campus from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., after the daily shuttles stop. Students request a ride through a phone call or the app Transloc to go anywhere on campus, as well as Clairmont and Emory Point. Two to three shuttles operate as SafeRide every night, 365 days a year. 

Mitchell started as an Emory shuttle driver two years ago and drives the Emory Shuttle Executive Park Route during the day. But, she said she enjoys the night shift of the SafeRide more, not only for the extra pay but also its capacity for life.

On Saturday, students from parties try to convince Mitchell that it’s water in their red solo cup. They talk about seeing their ex at the party or their dog at home. Between conversations, Mitchell helps confused students figure out the process of requesting a ride. 

On Sunday, students talk less overall but more about what matters most. Mitchell knew that students don’t like living in the Clairmont Tower, which professors graded too hard and midterms schedules. She will stop by students wandering from the library or on Starvine Way to ask if they need a ride. It’s in the name of getting students home safe. 

Here comes a student who wants to take the trip from Clairmont to the freshman dorms with his two friends. They have never ridden SafeRide, and with no pending requests, Mitchell takes the time to walk them through it. 

“SafeRide is your Uber,” she told them. “You just request it, and I will be here to get you. But, I want you to go through the process, so you know how to do it next time.” 

The student requested the wrong location on the app but got it right when he called the transportation office, who set up his ride to Raoul Hall. 

“Now, you can sit down, baby,” Mitchell said.

Over the next three hours, more than two dozen students ride the SafeRide covering the expanse of Emory’s campus. An exodus from the library sends Mitchell to Emory Point three times and Clairmont five times. Around midnight, the shuttle waited several minutes for “Austin” at CVS, who ended up being a no show. Mitchell recently discovered the Emory Bayit House past the baseball stadium and picked up a regular rider at 12:30 a.m.

The job comes with its daily challenges, ranging from personal to technical. One night, a student refused to take his feet off the seats after coming in from the rain. A student last Saturday wanted to be dropped off before Mitchell picked up another student on the way. On Sunday, Mitchell had to hop a curb at Woodruff Residential Center to avoid cars parked in the circle out front. 

On the way back to Clairmont on Starvine Way, Mitchell beeped her horn at another shuttle who beeped back. She radioed the other driver to tell them their destination sign said “Route M;” the other driver radioed back to tell Mitchell her destination sign was blank. Both drivers had set their destination signs to say “SAFERIDE.” 

Mitchell plans to drive SafeRide as long as she stays at Emory. With the extra pay and quieter shift, it’s a highly-requested job with even more senior colleagues taking Monday through Friday. It works well with her schedule, and she said she enjoys working with students. One of the hardest parts of her job is that most students don’t know what SafeRide is or how to use it, Mitchell said.

At 1 a.m., an Emory employee walks towards the SafeRide shuttle but then turns away to start on Starvine Way. Mitchell honks and waves her back towards the shuttle. 

“Ma’am, do you want a ride?” Mitchell said. “This is the SafeRide.” 

“I can just walk, it’s okay,” the employee said.

“Ma’am, come on.”

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Xavier Stevens (23C) is from St. Louis, Missouri, studying English and Creative Writing. Outside of the Wheel, he plays ultimate frisbee with Emory Juice and enjoys listening to Sturgill Simpson and Leon Bridges.