Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Ask the Expert: Landis Erwin, Marketing Manager and Travel Trainer in Erie, Pennsylvania

What is your background?

Landis Erwin with young bus riders
While attending Gannon University for journalism communications and leadership, I was made aware that the Erie Metropolitan Transit Authority was hiring a marketing intern to help promote their bus service. I was able to keep this internship for a period of three years, teaching students about the route and how to travel on the city buses. In addition, we held different events to give away promotional items. 

During my internship, EMTA was rebranded to the “e” and developed new marketing strategies. With community relations increasing, I was able to spend more time doing things for the office as time became available in my schedule. During my senior year at Gannon, the marketing manager position at the authority was available, and I applied for the position after speaking with people within the company. And now, here we are!

How did you become a travel trainer? What types of training did you receive?  

Once I was hired in the office, our travel training services expanded through communicating with the public. At the “e,” marketing plays multiple roles in order to present the company in a positive light. With the encouragement of the authority, I am able to take time to meet with people and ride the bus in order to help someone learn our system.

We have a trainer here at the “e,” who trains our drivers as well as those in the community. She helped me to blossom in travel training, and it has now become one of my favorite job aspects. After working with her, I was confident enough to learn techniques on my own through research, personal experiences, and by attending the 2013 Association of Travel Instruction Conference in Chicago this past summer.

What modes of transportation are available in your area?

In Erie, we provide fixed-route and paratransit transportation, which is known as our eLIFT.

What types of travel training services do you provide?

An EMTA bus
The “e” has several training services. People are able to schedule and come into the office for individual or small group trainings. This way we can sit down with them and personally talk about how to use the system as well as plan a trip to different destinations. We will even go to the extent of riding the bus with them so that they can better learn about the routes. Some people just need a little boost of confidence when it comes to something new, such as public transportation.

We are also fortunate to have our Travel Training Bus, which is able to seat large groups of people comfortably, and we travel to different places for group trainings. It is set up like a classroom inside--consisting of pull-down desktops, lights and speakers, cabinets with supplies, a refrigerator for water, and a television to watch the training video. We take the bus to trainees’ locations, train them inside the bus, and then drive a small route to look at different bus stops nearby. This will increase visibility and answer any questions they have along the way. It’s our most popular training service and even allows the driver(s) to participate in something hands-on.

Our training services apply to anyone and everyone who requests it. I personally work more with younger riders, those with disabilities, and our senior population. We attend every health or senior fair, school function, and community awareness event that community groups request us to attend. This is all a part of our training because we are there to help on the spot for both fixed-route and paratransit services.

What results from travel training have you seen in the community?

Public transportation is now more recognizable and accepted within our community due to travel training. People are learning better and making the programs known throughout the city, and travel training has even expanded to different classroom curriculums. Our fixed-route and paratransit ridership has increased, and educating the public on changes/unknown routes has become more important than ever before.

Final thoughts?
The “e” has worked hard to make public transportation a significant part of the Erie community. We understand that some will always choose to drive their vehicles, but we find it important to make them aware of what is still available for them. Thanks to our local, state and federal funding sources and the hard work of those at the “e,” Erie has a public transit system that will go the extra mile to help passengers ride the bus safely.

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