Tipsy Taxi has taken so many people home safely on New Year's Eve that organizers are thinking of expanding the program to St. Patrick's Day.
This year, 688 partygoers found a safe ride home with the free taxi service offered each year by DCCCA, a Lawrence-based drug and alcohol treatment provider. That's fewer than the 877 people who dialed the service at 842-TAXI in 2011, but still hundreds more than past years.
Jen Jordan, DCCCA's director of the regional prevention center, said she attributed the dip in this year's numbers to cold and snowy New Year's Eve weather that kept some folks at home. And despite that, the service has seen a big increase in riders since 2009 and 2010, when Tipsy Taxi carried 400-420 people each year.
The greater turnout recently, Jordan said, was helped when vans were added to the taxi fleet in 2011 by the professional taxi service DCCCA partners with. DCCCA contracts with Ground Transportation Services, a Lawrence taxi and shuttle service to do the driving.
Along with those higher ridership numbers, Tipsy Taxi is raising more money and contemplating expanding the service to other holidays that tend to leave some people unfit to drive and unable to walk a straight line. Usually, Tipsy Taxi barely raises $2,000, which is about what it costs to provide the service. But this year, donors from the community have already given $2,385 to the service and more is coming in.
Jordan said she hopes those contributions will exceed $4,000, which might allow Tipsy Taxi to finance an expansion to St. Patrick's Day.
Tipsy Taxi services, if expanded, would be redesigned to fit a different holiday. For instance, a St. Patrick's Day Tipsy Taxi service would probably be available during daytime hours, when more people are partying, as opposed to the late-night services on New Year's Eve.
Jordan said she likes to think of Tipsy Taxi as one successful program among others across the state that have led alcohol-related car accidents to decline over the past two years in Kansas. Douglas County, for instance, reported 150 such crashes last year, down from 170 in 2011 and 215 in 2010, according to data collected by the FakeID 101 task force, a partnership of DCCCA, local law enforcement and the Kansas Department of Transportation.