As game day weekends begin, many students wonder where CARPOOL, the free, safe and confidential ride service organization, is and if it will return to the Bryan-College Station nightlife scene this semester.
Since the pandemic began, CARPOOL has been observing the situation to ensure safety for everyone involved.
Biomedical engineering senior and CARPOOL chair Joshua Fernandez de la Vega said the organization suspended its operations right after Spring Break when the university shut down. However, the newly elected officers weren’t expecting to halt rides for the entire spring and summer.
“Interesting enough, I think everyone who signed up for an officer position signed up right before Spring Break, so none of us were really anticipating this to really come down on us,” Fernandez de la Vega said. “We kind of walked into this blindly.”
In preparation for the fall semester, Fernandez de la Vega said the organization spent the summer preparing a proposal to submit to the vice president of student affairs to see if CARPOOL could come back and run safely in the fall.
“We started that back in June, and we had several meetings where we got a lot of staff members together, wrote down all our concerns and researched ways to figure out how to address these concerns. That culminated in a 10-page document that we sent up two or three weeks ago,” Fernandez de la Vega said.
While this plan was being evaluated, chemical engineering senior and Director of Risk Management Matthew Mason reminded the organization’s leaders that they hadn’t surveyed staff opinion on the proposed return to service since Aug. 8.
“We did another poll on Tuesday to see if everyone is still comfortable with doing this, and the vast majority’s consensus was no,” Fernandez de la Vega said. “We are not currently in a position where we feel safe for CARPOOL to return, so we basically in the last couple of days have pulled the plug on moving forward. We’re going to take a step back and ask our staff members individually what specific concerns can you think of, and let’s see if any of these are possible in addressing or if it’s out of our control.”
The decision to suspend its services was difficult for CARPOOL. However, political science senior and Director of Team Management Abby Forrest said this decision was made with everyone's safety in mind.
“CARPOOL is an organization on top of just providing a service, and our first priority is always safety,” Forrest said.
Though services like Uber and Lyft are still providing rides, Mason said there is a difference between CARPOOL and other rideshares, including a cost-benefit analysis.
“For Uber and Lyft, if you drive, it’s only for yourself and you're making money while you're doing it,” Mason said. “As for CARPOOL, while I might be comfortable riding in a car, I have no moral authority to ask someone else to go get into that car. It’s very different between me running my business and taking people around and me in a non-profit student organization asking another student to go drive someone around, especially during a pandemic.”
While the organization has suspended its services, Fernandez de la Vega said he’s still passionate about CARPOOL and is looking forward to when they can be in a position to help the community once again.
“The best part about CARPOOL has really just been spending those long nights with everyone in the facility because the type of people that are going to volunteer on their weekend nights to stay up till 5:00 in the morning to take other people home are like really nice and great people to hang out with,” Fernandez de la Vega said.