The contract between Uber and the Student Government Association regarding UCF Safe Rides may include a cap on trip costs, the program’s maximum budget, and a verification mechanism, Knight News has learned.
The details on those stipulations were mentioned in newly released e-mails between Uber representative Sofia Navia to the Office of Student Involvement’s Director Shane Juntunen, SGA President Chris Clemente and Transportation Coordinator Robert Sells.
According to a Jan. 13 e-mail, the contract would include a “max trip value” to prevent users from abusing the 50 percent subsidy funded using the Activity & Service monies paid by students.
An example of that scenario, Navia said, is “someone taking a trip with multiple stops around the area.”
“We usually outline a max trip amount that would be covered under the subsidy,” Navia said. “As we discuss (sic) most trips are around $5 but we want to assign a cap in case there are any higher fares. I would suggest a $10 or $15 max trip value that UCF will subsidize 50%.”
A proposed total budget for the program will also be mentioned in the final contract. Navia said in the e-mail that SGA will be receiving monthly updates that would let officials track spending to prevent from going over budget. It is unclear if a budget agreement has since been reached.
“Based on 8K (sic) projections for 5 months—are you ok with outlining a $40K budget?” Navia said. “Let me know if you prefer a smaller number like $35K.”
The main concern to both parties about the program is how Uber aims to verify the identities of users eligible for the subsidy. Another e-mail, sent on Jan. 17, mentions the possible use of student e-mails as the verification mechanism. Students would be encouraged to change their primary e-mail to their Knights address, which would allow them to have access to an in-app UCF-themed button when they enter the subsidized coverage zone.
Using the Knights e-mail as a primary address would be part of Uber’s long-term plan of discouraging users from providing secondary addresses to their accounts.
“[A]dding the secondary [e-mail] is a much more cumbersome process where students have to log into their Uber account via a browser vs. being able to update their primary e-mail via the app,” Navia said.
A second option was discussed: the distribution of promotion codes either by having students enter their UCF identification number or by sending “random but unique” codes to individual e-mails. This option seems unlikely given that both parties have made clear that non-students, including alumni, will not have access to the subsidy.
But the Jan. 13 e-mail suggests that SGA is opting to share UCF’s student e-mail list with the company under the condition that it not be used “for any purpose other than the UCF Safe Rides.” In a section titled “Rider Email,” Navia asked for the e-mails in order to provide addresses with matching Uber accounts information regarding the new program once it launches. This could mean that valid Knights e-mails would be the verification mechanism.
Knight News previously reported that earlier discussions on the agreement between Juntunen and Navia expressed concerns that using student e-mails could present a privacy concern. They did conclude, however, that Knights e-mails covered by FERPA restrictions would not be given to Uber.
Juntunen also made clear the need to include a clause which obligates the company to purge student data used for the program from its archives once the contract ends.
While the information in the new and previously published emails provides a transparent look into the contract’s negotiations, details cannot be confirmed until the full contract is released.
Uber’s Safe Rides program is part of the company’s many university partnerships to provide students with subsidized rides. Part of SGA’s plan for the program is to remove the KnightLynx Green Line, which covered the immediate UCF area as well as University Boulevard between Alafaya Trail and Rouse Road.
The new program’s coverage zone would include the discontinued route as well as other student housing complexes on Alafaya Trail up to Waterford Lakes.