FORT RILEY, Kan. - After last call at the bars in Aggieville in Manhattan, Soldiers can head to the bus parked at the gas station at 12th and Moro streets, where a driver will collect $2.50 or punch their card that guarantees them a ride back to post, where they will safely return to their beds.

The Riley Ride program started in June 2008 as a way to keep Soldiers and others on the road safe after a night of drinking.

It also aimed to cut back on the number of arrests for driving under the influence Soldiers received on the weekends.

The bus leaves the Leisure Travel Center at 9:30 p.m. every Friday and Saturday and picks Soldiers up at designated barracks and buildings, before dropping them off in Aggieville.

The bus, which holds up to 20 passengers, makes three trips back to post throughout the night, beginning at 11 p.m. and picking up one last time at 2:30 a.m.

The charge for one ride is $2.50, but punch cards are available for $5 and $10 at the center and never expire.

"I've had Soldiers come back and thank me for the service because their designated driver fell through that night, or they ended up drinking more than they thought and didn't have a way home," said Teresa Mayes, Leisure Travel Center manager.

Mayes said she encourages unit leaders to purchase punch cards for their Soldiers to hand out, so they already have it on them when they head out to the bars.

"We see now that a lot of Soldiers go out as groups on the bus instead of taking their cars. The bus is by no means a party bus, but they seem to like going as a group to and from Aggieville," Mayes said.

Although Riley Ride is not running Christmas Eve, it will run New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, she said.

Pfc. Brandon Jaus, a Soldier with the 2nd Battalion, 34th Armor Regiment, 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, said he has ridden Riley Ride once out to Aggieville and five times back to post from the bars and encourages other Soldiers to utilize the program.

"The bus is easy to find and is right next to an ATM if you don't have cash on you. The driver will even take you right to your barracks, if most of the guys on the bus are from the same one," he said.

Jaus said he takes the bus for the convenience and the price.

"It's cheaper than getting a DUI or (driving while impaired)," Jaus said.

Spc. Bruce Beadle, 2nd Bn., 34th Armor Regt., 1st HBCT, said he's taken Riley Ride about a dozen times within the last two years.

"It's easy to jump on the bus and get a ride home that you know will be safe," he said. "If you're drinking and driving, you're not going to get through the gate, and you run the risk of possibly being chaptered out of the Army."

Spc. Donovan Beaty, 2nd Bn., 34th Armor Regt., 1st HBCT, said Riley Ride comes in handy when a designated driver falls through and no other safe way to get home exists.

"It's easy to take the bus to get back on post, and you know you will always have a sober driver to get you home safely," Beaty said. "Why drink and drive when you have a safe ride'"

Beadle said Riley Ride is better than calling for a cab that can often be unreliable and expensive.

"Riley Ride is reliable and safe all the time, every time," he said, adding he thinks the program should be mandatory for every Soldier who goes out to Aggieville to drink on the weekend.

For more information about the Riley Ride program, call the Leisure Travel Center, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday, at 785-239-5614.

Page last updated Wed December 22nd, 2010 at 16:42