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Rebel ride: what is does, where it's been, where it's going

BY CORY COX | Feature Writer

Despite recent financial difficulties, Rebel Ride is once again available for University of Mississippi students in hopes of decreasing the amount of drunk driving in Oxford.

Rebel Ride is a free shuttle service that transports students from the University of Mississippi campus to downtown Oxford and provides a ride back home.

Linda Spargo, special projects coordinator at Ole Miss, said Rebel Ride safely taxied 33,000 riders in 2007 and almost 50,000 patrons in 2008.

Spargo is also the faculty sponsor for the Students for a Safe Ride Organization and said she believes there is a correlation between these numbers.

“We’re not just in charge of intellectual development, we are educating students about issues dealing with social behavior as well,” Spargo said. “Students are
learning to make good choices and Rebel Ride provides that option.”

“I want Rebel Ride to be on my tombstone,” Spargo said. “It means that much to me and it is saving lives.”

Rebel Ride launched its pilot season for three weeks in fall 2000.

At that time there was a $10 fee and students received stickers to place on their student IDs to show that they had paid to use the transportation system.

Because Rebel Ride ran more often in the following spring semester, the fee was raised to $45 and paid passengers received keychain tags.

Spargo said in 2001, the facilitator at the time tried to switch to a token system and the operation fell apart.

Spearheaded by the Associated Student Body, a student-led Rebel Ride was revived in 2004.

Since then, Rebel Ride continued to run its weekend route until the organization fell upon financial hardship this past spring.

However, because Students for a Safe Ride received several donations
to support Rebel Ride, the service is now operating.

Spargo said the operation costs $4,400 each weekend to stay on track.

This pays for fuel, maintenance, drivers and renting the buses from a private company.

Junior Stephen Worley, 20, is the co-chair of Students for a Safe Ride and executive liaison for the Associated Student Body.

He said he first became interested in helping Rebel Ride when he read an April 2009 article in The Daily Mississippian that revealed Rebel Ride’s need for
funding.

Worley said Students for a Safe Ride have several fundraising plans to protect the future of the project.

For example, advertising space will be sold to generate revenue for Rebel Ride.

Each bus can be equipped with four ad-boards bearing local and national ads.

Donations from local organizations, alumni and parents of students will also be welcomed, he said.

“It’s good for parents to be able to give to something specific, something that they know serves a purpose and that their kids will use,” Worley said.

Special events are also being organized to aid the cause.

“Rolling On the Square,” an event that has proven successful in past years, is likely to make a sequel appearance.

Armbands are sold during the event to students, and members of the community and band-wearers receive exemption from cover charges and will benefit from
drink specials for an evening on the Square.

Spargo said ultimately there is hope to create an endowment fund to sustain the free service.

She said about $3 to 5 million is needed to start the fund and generate the $90,000 per year needed to keep Rebel Ride in service.

Both Worley and Spargo agree on two key points: Rebel Ride should be kept as a free service for students and consistency is essential.

Worley said he remembers using Rebel Ride on the weekends as an underclassman because he knew the busses would always be there when he needed a ride.

Traveling by bus also eliminated the hassle of trying to find a place to park on the busy Square, he said. Worley also said he hopes students realize that Rebel Ride is
not just the “drunk bus”; it is convenient and has plenty of space for groups of friends to travel together.

Considering the issue of keeping Rebel Ride free to passengers, Spargo said she realizes that not many students carry enough cash to pay a toll and even then being
faced with the task of making change will congest lines of passengers and disrupt the efficiency of the buses.

Having a cost-free alternative helps make the choice of not getting into a car when a driver is over the legal alcohol consumption limit much easier.

“At 2 a.m., everybody who needs to be on the bus needs to get on the bus, no matter the cost,” Spargo said.