A new draft of a coming deal between UCF and Uber details the terms of the ride-sharing company’s Safe Rides program which includes subsidized rides paid using Activity & Service Fees.
The draft, which was obtained by Knight News, confirms what was previously reported about the program. In particular, the Student Government Association will provide a 50 percent subsidy for rides “up to a maximum of $10.”
The rides would have to be completed within a predetermined coverage zone that encompasses much of the UCF area. Rides go as far as west Rouse Road and cover the distance between McCulloch Road and State Road 408, including Waterford Lakes.
While affiliated housing complexes are meant to be covered it is not immediately clear whether complexes, like The Village at Science Drive, are within the zone. Knight News requested a list of housing complexes that will and will not be covered by the agreement and have not yet received a response.
It was also confirmed, the times the subsidy will apply are the same as previously reported: Friday and Saturday nights from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m. This is meant as a replacement to the now-discontinued KnightLynx Green Line, which provided rides via University Boulevard.
A major point of contention during the contract negotiations, per previously obtained e-mails between UCF officials and Uber representatives, was how to give students access to the subsidy. The contract suggests that the final model will be the creation of promotion codes by Uber for the university to “distribute at their own discretion.”
UCF has yet to clarify what method will be used to determine who gets a promotion code and whether a plan will be put in place to ensure the user who receives the code will be the only one to use it.
But the use of unique codes to apply the subsidy does quell UCF’s previous security and privacy concerns. In the e-mails between Sells and Uber representative Sofia Navia, Navia proposed that Uber have a collection of student e-mails and phone numbers in order to distribute information about the program.
“What if Uber gets hacked and then all of our students’ e-mails get leaked?” Sells previously told Knight News. “We want to make sure there’s as many students who can have access as possible, but we also want to make sure we won’t be posing any security risk to student information at the same time.”
Collecting personal contact information would have been allowed under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, but it would have presented the logistical problem of making students, who chose to make that information private, ineligible for the Safe Rides program.
The draft mentions June 30 as promotion’s end date. The fact that the deal has yet to be officially signed and rolled out suggests that it is subject to change. However, the draft also mentions that the program will end “the date on which University accrues equal to $40,000 in aggregate Promotion Fees” or when Uber provides written notice of the program’s termination.
It is unclear how much UCF plans to spend on the program or whether they expect to go over the maximum aggregate fee and thus have the program terminated before the as-of-now undetermined end date.
Nor is it known whether the subsidies will cost less than the price of the discontinued Green Line. Campus Life Director Emily Dovydaitis said in a previous interview that the goal is the provide students with a higher quality service.
“Even though it is a higher cost, you’re spending less per student and there’s a lot more utility in our purchase,” Dovydaitis said. “As opposed to putting a few students to ride one Green Line for thousands of dollars a month, you can have hopefully thousands of students utilizing the Uber program for a similar cost.”
Regardless, the public will not be able to know how much was spent on the program, since the “trip data letters” – which are invoices that detail the subsidy fees, the number of trips and the number of “unique monthly riders” within a pay period — are considered by Uber to be a trade secret.
The trip data letters would also include a heat map that depicts the pick-up and drop-off locations that are popular for riders who use the code. While they are considered trade secret by Uber, Knight News managed to obtain a copy of UCF area heat maps from e-mails related to early pitches of the program to SGA officials.
Uber did not directly respond to the discrepancy, but it did stand by its position of keeping the invoices and trip data secret, calling it “sensitive business information.”
“Uber is committed to working with UCF to increase mobility options for its students,” said spokesman Javi Correoso, in an e-mailed statement. “Some of the information provided to government entities through these partnerships contains trade secrets and other private user information that is protected under [Florida] law. It is common for private companies to rely on these laws to prevent the disclosure of sensitive information and that is what Uber is doing here.”
It is not yet known when the contract will be signed.
Knight News e-mailed a list of questions to SGA Transportation Coordinator Robert Sells, Office of Student Involvement Director Shane Juntunen and spokesman David Oglethorpe to clarify the technical and legal details of the contract as well as UCF’s budget. While they did not respond by publishing time, their responses will be included in updates to this story.