Safewalk will acquire two new accessibility shuttles next month

The AMS Safewalk program will be getting two accessibility shuttles in May.

The project has been in the works for about four years, said Student Services Manager Ian Stone, and it intends to increase the accessibility of the Safewalk service. The two new GEM model e6 shuttles will cost around $100,000 in total.

Safewalk is a safety accompaniment service designed to help students, staff or community members on UBC campus if they feel unsafe travelling alone at night. Stone said it’s one of the AMS’s most “well-used” services.

Normally, there has been a walking team and a driving team, but due to the pandemic, the driving service has been put on hold.

Stone said the AMS acquired its first Safewalk cars several years ago after a spike in usage following some “high-profile attacks” on UBC campus.

“With that in mind, we explored the opportunity to expand our previously walking-only team to a shuttle model as well to serve more clients, instead of having to walk all the way across campus which can take a long time, and then come back,” he said.

The accessibility shuttles are intended to supplement the current Safewalk vehicles and allow for Safewalk to be more accessible to students with disabilities as well as the rest of campus.

“The two big things that we’re really looking forward to is the ability to drive through campus, as vehicles can’t really drive across Main Mall, but the accessibility shuttles can,” he said.

“We are also hoping to upgrade or outfit one of the shuttles with capabilities to take a wheelchair, which is something that is lacking from our current vehicle.”

The base model of the shuttles should arrive some time in May and the wheelchair accessibility upgrade will follow. Costs for the wheelchair upgrade have not been finalized. Stone said the funding for the shuttles is coming from the tuition surplus the university allocated to student societies last summer.

“We’ve been able to work with the [AMS] executive … to be able to secure these shuttles from the tuition surplus that is being used to help fund some very sorely needed projects,” Stone said.