Massachusetts technology company urges legislative panel to embrace broader campaign to protect college students off campus to augment legislation for more on-campus security investment
BOSTON, MA (April 30) – A local technology company that has recently launched a Smartphone app to help protect rideshare customers from assault testified in support of legislation Tuesday that would to expand campus security systems on public college campuses, but urged the panel to consider college student safety off campus as well.
“Colleges and universities in Massachusetts – both public and private – do a very good job of securing their campuses and their students and faculty,” said Gregory Cznarowski, Chief Executive Officer of BestRides. “But we also know that the 200,000 college and university students in Massachusetts don’t just live within the protective bubble of their campuses and they are still our concern when they leave those campuses and the constant vigilance of campus security.”
The Joint Committee on Higher Education is considering legislation that would create the Public Higher Education Campus Safety Expenditure Act of 2019 to bond up to $115 million for additional security measures and monitoring technology on public college campuses.
BestRides, launched over a month ago in Massachusetts, is a Smartphone app downloadable on Android and IOS phones that allows preselected friends or family to track a ride (or walking trip) in real time to assess whether the person got to their destination when expected. The app has a Panic button to trigger and alert if the rider is concerned. The app – which is free – also allows the user to assess the best price for that ride.
“In our marketing of BestRides, we remind our customers that they literally hold the key to their own safety in the form of their phone,” said Czarnowski. “Additionally, we would like to see a public awareness campaign outside campus borders reminding everyone that when they get into an Uber or Lyft, they are getting into a car with a stranger and they need to be vigilant and take simple precautions like riding with someone else and using available technology to track your ride.”
BestRides is an easy-to-use app for your smartphone that along with offering you instant ride-sharing pricing, provides real-time updates to your contacts when you’re traveling. Whether you’re taking a regular ride to work during the day or heading home through an unfamiliar neighborhood at night, BestRides lets them know when you’ve arrived safely at your destination and immediately alerts them if you do not. Find us at best-rides.com
Testimony of Gregory Cznarowski Before the Joint Committee on Higher Education
Tuesday, April 30, 2019
Good morning, Chairwoman Gobi and Chairman Roy and members of the Joint Committee on Higher Education. My name is Gregory Czarnowski. I am the CEO of the Massachusetts-based company BestRides, which has developed and deployed a smartphone app specifically designed to protect Uber and Lyft riders from dangerous situations they may encounter in rideshare rides or even taxicabs for which they are not prepared.
I will explain how the app in simple terms later, but its utility is unfortunately illustrated too often in incidents such as the alleged rape of a woman just weeks ago allegedly by an Uber driver near the Esplanade. These incidents continue to happen nationally and globally.
Our presence here today is in support of Senate Bill 752 and House Bill 1215 which would provide additional support for on-campus technology upgrades to protect our public college and university student population with more sophisticated and enhanced security camera monitoring and emergency communications systems. As you well know, Massachusetts is home to more than 100 colleges and universities attended by more than 200,000 undergraduate and graduate students.
Colleges and universities in Massachusetts – both public and private – do a very good job of securing their campuses and their students and faculty. But we also know that the college and university students in Massachusetts don’t just live within the protective bubble of their campuses and they are still our concern when they leave those campuses and the constant vigilance of campus security.
We know from our own research that even in a city like Boston with an accessible and affordable transit system, college students are multimodal and use rideshares like Uber and Lyft interchangeably with public transit.
Our business model is simple and the download of Bestrides is free. Whether it is our app or another, the point is the same: Students and the riding public need to take control of their own safety. Students like us because our app tells you in real time which rideshare is cheapest; their parents like us because we are keeping an extra eye out for their kids. These ride services are not dangerous. For the most part. But as we remind people, you are quite literally getting into a car with a stranger. Most parents don’t want to think about, but it is something they worry about.
Our technology allows the ride user to alert pre-selected friends or family in Real time that they are going from point A to point B and when they expect to arrive. It then let’s them know if they arrived as expected and lets them deploy a panic alert if something goes wrong. We are currently the only company that has this alert system apart from Uber and Lyft, but our appearance here today is not to seek this committee’s endorsement of BestRides, but to ask that this legislation going forward also recognize that the threat to the safety of college students in Massachusetts is not limited to their campuses but to their lives outside those campuses.
Massachusetts is among the most popular destinations for college students, sent here by nervous parents who have entrusted all of us to do our very best to protect their child from harm. We ask only that the legislation as it moves forward consider what we can do to increase college student safety both on and off campus.