Student volunteers keep STRIPES running, 14 years strong

Currently, STRIPES is working to lower its wait times, marketing coordinator Robbie Towner said.

Over the three semesters senior Paramveer Hundal has volunteered for STRIPES, MU’s student-run rideshare service, he said his most memorable experience as a driver was when he picked up two guys who were intoxicated. He asked them what music they like, and their response was Ke$ha.

“They knew every word to ‘Carnivore,’ ‘Animal,’ ‘Tik Tok,’ ‘Blow’ and ‘We R Who We R,’” Hundal said. “They knew every word to every one of these songs. It was a fun time.”

Each school year, three nights a week until all hours of the morning, students like Hundal opt to drive a car or answer the phone as they volunteer their time to provide fellow MU students with a safe ride home.

STRIPES, a student auxiliary, has a simple mission to provide those rides without judgment and at no cost. In fact, students just need a student ID to utilize the service. STRIPES, or Supportive Tigers Riding In Pursuit of Ensuring Safety, has served the MU community since 2001 and is still going strong.

For STRIPES Marketing Coordinator Robbie Towner, STRIPES is more than just a free ride for students.

“That’s the biggest thing about STRIPES: We are keeping the community safe as well, not just Mizzou students, because we share the roads with the city of Columbia,” Towner said. “That is the most important thing, that we are building this bridge between the community (and Mizzou) when it comes to safe driving.”

STRIPES rents its cars from Avis each weekend to drive community members around who may be unable to drive. Every Thursday, it rents seven cars, and Fridays and Saturdays it rents 13 cars. Each car must always have one female and one male.

The first three times a student volunteers, they will be the passenger. When a volunteer can finally sign up to be a driver, they are paired with an executive board member who will decide if they can become a driver.

STRIPES operates with the paired-up drivers and passengers, along with three people designated to answer phone calls.

The typical wait time for a ride can range from 30 minutes to an hour and a half. The busiest nights are typically football game days, MU Homecoming and Halloween.

Towner said STRIPES is currently working to lower its wait times.

“Our wait times have been really good this year,” Towner said. “We are working on efficiently lowering them this year. We try to see when we get the most busiest and we really try to strategize rides.”

The entire dispatch system is computerized. Once someone makes a call, the volunteer who answers the phone inputs that information into a computer. Each car is equipped with a phone, so once the information is inputted, it will automatically be transmitted to a phone in one of the cars.

STRIPES, an auxiliary of the Missouri Students Association, is mostly funded through student fees and tips. The organization also runs off of donations and sponsorships. Their biggest fundraising tool is a gala held each spring, which will be on April 11 this year.

People can attend the gala by purchasing tickets at the STRIPES website for $50. In addition to attending the gala, people can donate items to the silent auction, choose to sponsor the event or advertise in the program.

“A lot of people from throughout the community, including alumni and parents, really do come out to support the gala,” Towner said.

A few weekends ago, the executive board went down to Texas A&M University to the Safe Ride Programs United Conference. At SRPU, 24 schools came together to discuss their rideshare programs, and what works and what does not work for each program.

The executive board meets every Sunday to discuss how the weekend went, in order to improve operation.

“STRIPES is pretty much the same as last semester, but … we are always constantly trying to improve our operations,” Towner said.

STRIPES is a membership-based organization, with 250 volunteers. Volunteers maintain an active membership by volunteering five nights per semester, whether it is driving, answering phones or sitting in the passenger seat. Team leaders must volunteer seven nights and executive members must volunteer 10 nights a semester.

“People definitely do exceed their requirements just because they are having a lot of fun and are really enjoying the organization,” Towner said. “A lot of them are very passionate about keeping the roads safe.”

MU students can apply to join STRIPES for next semester starting March 9. There are three rounds for the process. Round one is a written application, the second round is a group interview and the final round is an individual interview.

Students are encouraged to call the phone number found on the back of their student ID card anytime between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. no matter what the circumstances are for a free, safe ride back to a home address for up to five people.

“It’s a lot better to call and be picked up than to drive and possibly get into a wreck,” Hundal said.

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