TapRide, GC’s own dedicated ride-share program, has been gaining popularity since its launch last semester.
For $5, a TapRide student driver will pick riders up and take them anywhere in Milledgeville, from 9 a.m. until late at night.
For John Jackson, GC’s maintenance manager and the head of TapRide, the program’s strong start is a point of pride.
“TapRide has been incredibly successful,” Jackson said. “TapRide is different from other school transportation like SNAP because it is not dependent on SGA funds. It’s entirely self-sufficient.”
This means that TapRide has advantages over SNAP and other GC-provided transportation. TapRide can take students farther distances, from Kroger to Arcadia, in an air-conditioned car, and the $5 fare can be split among multiple riders.
“The program started to be put into the works during last fall and started operations late this September,” Jackson said. “Students really started to love it. We have about 1,368 registered on our app and are well on our way to our goal of 2,000 by the end of the spring semester.”
Jackson said TapRide averages about 100 new users every week, so it should be possible to reach the 2,000 user goal soon.
The service is a hit with sophomore Melissa Escudero, who uses TapRide weekly to get from Arcadia to wherever she needs to go, because GC’s shuttle routes are limited.
“I use TapRide because it’s so easy,” Escudero said. “I’ve never had a bad experience with it. All the drivers are nice and friendly, and it usually doesn’t take much time for them to pick me up and take me where I need to go, and it only costs $5.”
However, some students have complained of long wait times and unresponsive drivers.
“It was Super Bowl Sunday, if I’m remembering correctly, and we had been going to Velvet to watch the game,” said sophomore Madi Brillhart. “We were just standing outside Velvet, and I got another ride after about 20 minutes of waiting. The next day I was in class [around 3 p.m.] and I got an alert on my phone that said that a driver had accepted my request.”
Brillhart said she had to call TapRide to cancel her ride request because the cancellation function on the app did not work.
Junior Caleb Broyles, a TapRide driver, said he recognizes that customers have encountered problems with the app.
“The app’s still in its early stages, but hopefully they’ll get it updated and they’ll start, you know, keeping track of [rides] better,” Broyles said. “Sometimes it has a hard time keeping up with the driver. Usually if there’s a phone number I’ll try to text them and be like, ‘Hey I’ll actually be there sooner.’”
Jackson said friendly customer service and communicative drivers are the keys to success.
“It may not seem like it, but customer service is really important to TapRide, so in the interview to get hired, we look at their social skills and experience in customer service is great to already have,” Jackson said.
Senior Ross Democko, another TapRide driver, agrees that those qualities are an important part of the TapRide experience.
“A lot of our job is customer service,” Democko said. “We need to try to make the experience as enjoyable as possible for our riders. We need to be fast and nice. I have a history in customer service jobs and it’s something I really enjoy because I like to talk to people, but I also know when to not force conversation. I do what makes them most comfortable.”
While busy nights may be Democko’s favorite, the slow nights have an appeal of their own.
“Even though the part I love most about my job is talking to the people I drive, I also enjoy slow nights,” Democko adds. “Some days we have orders backed up, but some days we don’t have many. When we don’t have many, I get to chill in the office and do homework or watch Netflix.”
Democko said he can be doing anything while waiting for an order, as long as he’s ready to drop it at a moment’s notice.
But Democko may soon find himself with less wait time between rides. TapRide’s success has caused them to start expanding. They are currently hiring their third round of drivers and gaining a stronger social media presence.
“We are going to have a tent at Tent City, and we are creating social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram,” Jackson said. “We will be giving out free ride cards at Tent City and posting promotional information on social media to try to continue reaching new students. We hope to keep TapRide running for a long time to come.”