Transportation

Dalhousie’s Tiger Patrol improving hiring process after student complaints

'This is not a fun cab service, this is a safety service'

Tiger Patrol is made up of only two vans. Jake MacIsaac of Security Services hopes a few more vehicles will be added to the fleet in coming years
Tiger Patrol is made up of only two vans. Jake MacIsaac of Security Services hopes a few more vehicles will be added to the fleet in coming years.   Mathew Kahansky

Dalhousie University is continuously updating its community safety programs, five years after replacing the safe walk service.

The Tiger Patrol, a van service that shuttles patrons home safely every evening in the academic year, is Dalhousie’s current safe escort program.

Dalhousie Security Services and the Dalhousie Student Union operate the vans.

The service fields roughly 25,000 calls annually – on busy nights, it can shuttle as many as 100 students home from campus.

The Tiger Patrol continues to work towards better service for all those patrons.

Jake MacIsaac, the student union community safety coordinator, hopes to see the Tiger Patrol become integrated with campus culture.

“I want [Tiger Patrol] to be part of the community. I want people to feel safer when they see us around,” he said.

To that end, both security services and the student union have been looking for student feedback on ways to improve the van service.

Complaints from last year included issues with drivers playing disruptive music and distracting each other with conversation, which MacIsaac is addressing with more stringent policies for this year’s new hires.

“This is not a fun cab service, this is a safety service,” he said.

“Until we heard student feedback, it wasn’t something I knew about. I don’t take the Tiger Patrol, so I’m not able to watch how the drivers interact with patrons.”

Since Tiger Patrol is a joint operation, the student union has a part in hiring policy procedures.

Dylan Ryan, the student union’s vice-president of finance and operations and student government affiliate with the Tiger Patrol, agreed with the stricter hiring.

“We’re evaluating the service all the time, which led to [MacIsaac’s] better new hiring practices. We’re also putting more accountability on the drivers, which keeps them up to date,” Ryan said.

MacIsaac’s vision for developing easy-to-use community safety programs doesn’t stop with the Tiger Patrol.

Security services continues to update its DalSafe smartphone app with features that combine the different safety programs.

The app’s Virtual Safewalk feature, allows users’ friends to watch their progress using GPS tracking in real time. By bridging Virtual Safewalk with Tiger Patrol, patrons can use the former while waiting for a pickup.

While parents and students coming from other universities are sometimes surprised by the lack of a safe walk service, MacIsaac says they are always satisfied by his explanations for having Tiger Patrol as an alternative.

He sees the axing of the old program as a positive.

“This is a natural evolution of the service, expanding a part being more robustly used rather than a cut,” MacIsaac said. “Not all cuts are made for the same reason.”

At busier times, societies and groups hosting events sometimes provide their own safe walk services.

Orientation week events or galas during the year strive to get attendants home safely by supplementing Tiger Patrol.

However, Ryan doesn’t think there’s any going back.

“I’ve never heard anybody say they miss safe walk.”