What is travel training?

Travel training, or mobility training as it is sometimes called, is teaching those who are eligible for the program how to ride public transportation. Travel training programs are used to train seniors and/or those with disabilities how to use fixed route transit and light rail so that they are not completely dependent upon paratransit services.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that seniors and those with disabilities have access to specialized paratransit transportation services if they are prevented by their disability from using public transportation. But the Act also makes it clear that the regular fixed-route public transit is the best option whenever possible. However, for many, learning to use public transit presents a huge obstacle. That’s where travel training makes all the difference.

How does it work?
Travel training programs can be adapted to meet every community’s needs. The funding source of the program may determine which populations are eligible – seniors, and/or those with physical or cognitive disabilities.

Group Instruction
Trainers work with eligible groups through senior centers, assisted living residences, programs for the disabled, and more. Training can include lessons in how to read a schedule, planning a trip, paying the fare, using accessibility features, and taking actual rides on the bus. This type of training tends to focus on general orientation for the entire transit system.

Individualized Instruction
Eligible participants are referred by transit and human service agencies, or they contact the program directly. A travel trainer meets with the participant to get acquainted and assess his/her abilities and transportation needs. The trainer develops a training program to meet those specific needs. For a trainee with a mobility device, the first lesson might be a trip to the bus barn to learn how to use the lift on the bus. Other lessons are learning how to read a schedule, planning their route, finding bus stops, and riding the bus. Training is completed when participants have demonstrated that they are able to safely ride the bus on their own.

Some travel training programs offer different levels of instruction. Basic individual instruction, which usually consists of up to ten hours, is often what is needed for seniors who are transitioning from driving a car of their own and just need to learn the ropes of riding public transportation. Many older adults have never ridden modern buses and are unaware of features such as low-floors, ramps, lifts and even air conditioning. Their fear of using public transit can be overcome by working with the trainer to learn how easy it is to plan their own trips and ride the bus. The trainer will assist them until they are comfortable riding independently.

For people who have disabilities, intensive training of up to 30 hours may be required. Often participants with disabilities need to learn how to get to a job or a regular destination. The trainer will ride the bus or train with them, practicing the route, until the participant can travel without assistance.

Travel training can be for one specific route (to and from an adult day program) or for the entire public transit system. It can encompass all modes of transportation including bus, light rail, and ferries.

For more information, contact Phil McGuire.

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Travel training

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