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CU NightRide transforms Safe Rides program through customized service


Tailor a mobility service to the unique needs of riders, drivers and in alignment with the constraints of the service area.


Increase in ridership since launch
Unique app users


Located in Boulder and nestled at the base of the Rocky Mountains, the University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder) is the flagship university of the University of Colorado System and sees over 33,000 students every year. The institution’s Safe Rides service first started off as an escorted walking service, CU NightWalk, in 1985 and evolved over the span of 30 years to become CU NightRide.

The program is completely student run and offers a safe way home to students at no cost. Running every night from 6pm until midnight on school nights and until 1am on weekends, CU NightRide operates with a nine vehicle dedicated fleet and staff of 35 drivers and dispatchers. Previous operating platforms were too restrictive for the needs of the CU NightRide service and led to poor driver and rider experience. As more students needed safe rides and required a reliable option, CU Night Rides sought out a tailored solution to their needs to provide both riders and drivers with a seamless experience.

CU NightRide
Boulder, CO, USA
August 2022
Service Type
Safe Rides

Challenges: A lack of flexibility with previous platform provider

  • High cancellation rates due to long and constantly fluctuating estimated arrival time indications led to the program having a poor reputation and lower ridership
  • Rigid software prevented operators from setting up service zones and constraints
  • With no zones in place, riders experienced frustrations with trying to locate their rides as drivers were sent to destinations not accessible by vehicle
  • Operators were unable to collect feedback from riders and had little to no insight into cancellation reasoning

Solution: A service tailored to agency needs

After switching their operations to Spare, CU NightRide had an array of customization options available to them when it came to designing their service. They took charge of their program and put in place service zones and edited the messaging in notifications sent out to riders. Riders had more accurate driver ETA information, reinstating the CU NightRide program as a reliable program for students. The introduction of a white label app provided users with a straightforward and easy-to-use interface. With these changes, the program gained traction among students and positive experiences were shared through word of mouth.

“We waited on fixes and feature improvements from our previous provider for years without seeing progress. Meanwhile we're seeing constant progress and improvement from Spare. Even though it's already really great and offers fantastic support, Spare is actively making this a better program. We've had an overall excellent experience so far, and it seems like it's going to keep going that way.”

Nik Provost, Director, CU NightRide
Nik ProvostDirector, CU NightRide

“Spare is amazing and I recommend them to any Safe Ride program because of the level of support they offer and the timely response we receive. They’ve really helped us transform our service.”

Yuzhou (Joe) Zhou, Assistant Director of Systems Operations and Marketing, CU NightRide
Yuzhou (Joe) ZhouAssistant Director of Systems Operations and Marketing, CU NightRide

Results: Improved rider experience and service growth

Switching to Spare meant that CU NightRides had more control of their service allowing them to

  • Set up service zones and operation constraints
  • Customize announcements and messaging for riders and
  • Select detour flexibility levels when pooling rides

With Spare, CU NightRides has been able to achieve:

Reliable ETAs for Riders: Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA) dropped from fluctuating between two to three hours to an average of about 20-30 minutes. Through the white label app, riders have a realistic and accurate indication of when their ride will arrive.

Service Growth:  CU NightRide has seen an increase of 17% in ridership since switching to Spare, due to improved communication around driver ETA and students sharing their positive experiences.

Closing the Communication Loop: CU NightRide operators have more insight into their service with rider reviews and feedback. With an improved understanding of operations and rider experience, the leadership team is able to make adjustments to better serve riders based on feedback.

Operator flexibility: CU Nightride is able to ensure a smooth operation for riders and drivers by defining clear service zones as set out by their own parameters.This gives CU NightRide control over their service while also avoiding miscommunication of pickup locations: drivers and riders are always aware of a common pickup location. At times, CU NightRide chooses to pool rides and define a detour flexibility level so that riders can be dropped off within a reasonable timeframe.

Overall, the switch to Spare has fostered a seamless experience for operators, drivers and riders. As demand continues to grow following the adjustments made to the service, CU NightRides is looking into implementing intelligent trip brokering through Spare and a partnership with Lyft. This would let CU NightRide complete rides beyond their 16 square mile service area and provide options to students needing a ride after service hours.