A conventional example is when people with cognitive or physical disabilities are trained to ride a public transit (TCAT) bus instead of using paratransit (GADABOUT). In this case, travel training enables people to ride a bus (at an overall cost of $4.50 per ride) instead of riding paratransit (costing $24 per ride). For example, Challenge Industries requested funding for a travel training program for persons with cognitive disabilities to assist them to get to work. Further, TCAT has an interest in travel training which could divert people with disabilities, who are able to ride a bus, from using paratransit service. A highly skilled approach to travel training is required in these circumstances. Easter Seals’ Project Action provides professional training for agency staff. People with sight, hearing or speech loss may receive specialized training by national associations.
A common travel training approach for seniors is a bus buddy program operated with volunteers. I’ve met seniors who would like to try TCAT if a person would accompany them on a trip to show them the ropes. A bus buddy program often uses volunteers to provide this service. The transit system provides passes for the program, for the volunteer and the new rider with a “welcome aboard” kit. The network of agencies providing services for seniors including: outreach, housing, social, and well-being (support) services, should be involved in coordinating this effort.
An appropriate level of travel training is needed for youth. Most youth need an orientation to riding the bus and using other services. Youth with special needs require specialized training described above. Schools are important partners in teaching youth about transportation options, especially with school districts reducing school bus transportation service for after-school programs.
People with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) often need group orientation and individual coaching on how to use public transportation services. A travel training program can provide useful feedback to transportation operators on how to make their services more accessible and understandable for LEP persons. There is a significant body of research into using graphics and symbols to substitute for words to enable customers to successfully use transit services. I have personal experience with this. I navigated the subway, buses, trams, and route taxis in St. Petersburg, Russia although I am an illiterate non-Russian speaker. My travel training consisted being shown how to use each service and how to access services using signs (with numbers), visual clues, and landmarks. When a transportation provider makes their customer experience accessible to non-English speakers, persons with disabilities and seniors, then the service will be easier for everybody to understand and use.
Using Internet-based information services is an essential travel training skill for many people. Ridesharing services are entirely accessible through the web. Car-sharing prefers web transactions. The bus trip planner is web-based. Future services to integrate transportation services will be web-based. Short training videos on how to use services are needed to leverage access to travel training. The Way2Go site would be a good central repository for training video clips (way2goinfo.net). Providing high quality consumer videos for target markets would be available 24/7 through the website.
Travel training needs to be a collaborative effort to use competencies of partnering agencies to efficiently deliver services. In 2010, we will invest program development time to evaluate opportunities for community travel training. What are your ideas on how to develop this program?