During the second visit, an out-of-service bus is brought to the school so the students can see in person what they have learned in the classroom. I don’t believe a person can truly learn the knowledge he has attained until it is put to use. Starting with the outside of the bus, students learn how to use the wheelchair ramp and bike rack. Boarding the bus, we show them how to use the fare box. When seated, they see where the mobility devices are properly secured, how to use a stop request cord, proper bus etiquette and rules, as well as safety on and off the bus because safety is the main focus of our program. We also have the operator take us for a short ride so students can feel what it’s like to be in a moving bus. This may be a new experience for the students as well as the teachers; the majority of the people that we work with in class have never been on a public bus.
During the third visit, we take the class on a field trip to our Robert K. Pfaff Transit Center. The trip starts with teaching pedestrian skills needed to access the bus stop. This again gives us a chance to emphasize safety in all facets of their trip. We the ride the actual route necessary to get to our destination, which is an eye-opening experience for many. Once at the transit center, we will give a tour, including where buses pull in, our security office, the customer services area, and where Greyhound and other transit authorities are located. This also gives the students a chance to see the inner workings of our environmentally-friendly facility. We will then have lunch in the Community Room and take a return trip back to the school.
Additional visits to the school may be held should they be requested. Additional visits may include assistance with field trips, learning how to access our website and trip planner, or a refresher course.
2. How do you reach out to the schools?
We attempt to reach schools through transition programs. We have worked with all types of schools and classes throughout Summit County as well as many agencies. Throughout my time with METRO, I have seen an increased demand for knowledge and information about public transportation and word of mouth is probably our greatest tool in reaching a large segment of our community. My coworker, Nicole, and I also attend many school and community events. We provide travel training information on our website and through many other community resources.
3. Why is it important for a transit agency and school district to have these connections?
When I talk to groups, sometimes I talk about my life before METRO and life with METRO. Prior to METRO, I had never been on a bus and knew very little about public transportation. Because of this, I’m able to relate to the passengers when they have all this new information given to them at once.
I will always remember something my boss told me when we first developed our travel training program—a person cannot truly be an equal member of their community if she doesn’t have a way to get around. Many people take transportation for granted.
It is extremely important for a transit agency to be active in the community; the community supports us. A person may not need us today, but he may need us tomorrow. He may need us for a few days or may become a lifetime rider. I am supportive of the schools as the students are our future riders. It is rewarding to have developed such solid relationships with the schools and other groups we serve. On a personal level, at the end of the day I feel like I accomplished something and made a difference with someone.
4. How has being able to use more than one mode of transportation—both a school bus and a public fixed-route bus system—affected the students? What have you heard from the students themselves?