City government

Travel Training program to educate seniors about public transportation

By From page A1 | March 29, 2013

What: Travel Training program event

When: 9 a.m.-noon Saturday, April 27

Where: Davis Senior Center, 646 A St.

When seniors or those with disabilities are forced to hang up the car keys for good, the ability to get from Point A to Point B — especially alone — begins to wane.

To help folks hurdle this all-too-common obstacle, a group of local transportation leaders have devised a program to educate or remind seniors, or anyone who has a difficult time getting around, about their transportation options.

From the basics of riding the bus to using paratransit services to even hopping on a bike, Brian Abbanat, the city’s transportation planner, and company want to get the word out that it’s still possible to get around without a car.

“We recognize that there’s this demographic shift of baby boomers who are going to be aging and the general desire for most people is to age in place,” Abbanat said Thursday.

“To be able to age in place and fully participate in life and all of life’s activities and take advantage of all the amenities … you need to be able to get around without using a vehicle.”

The “Travel Training” program officially kicks off on Saturday, April 27, at the Davis Senior Center, 646 A St., with the first of what will be an ongoing biannual event to teach seniors and people with disabilities about the various ways to commute in, out and around town.

The event — which will be sponsored by city transportation staff, Davis Community Transit, the Davis Senior Center, YCTD/ Yolobus and Unitrans — will start at 9 a.m. and will last about three hours.

During the event, participants will be divided into three groups to learn about the type of transportation they’re most interested in and will listen to 30-minute presentations about that specific subject.

“Bus Beginnings” will educate those about how to get on and off the bus, how to read and use transit maps and the health benefits of walking and its relationship to transit.

“Back on the Bike” will teach participants about how to commute around town on two wheels, with discussions about bicycling basics and also walking and its health benefits.

“Paratransit Provides” will focus on the similarities and differences between “fixed route” bus systems and how to choose between a fixed route and paratransit.

After the 30-minute presentations, the groups will be taken for field excursions to physically practice what they just learned.

Back-on-the-bike folks will gather in the parking lot to ride a bicycle training course, the bus beginners will ride the bus from the Senior Center to downtown and the paratransit group will be loaded onto a paratransit bus at the Senior Center and shuttled off to the Davis Commons shopping center to walk around.

In addition to seniors, Abbanat hopes this program eventually will give confidence to those still driving to use other modes of transportation.

“If they’re not ready to plug in and they still have their keys, if they know that this program is continuous and will always be there, then they can just plug into it whenever they’re ready,” Abbanat said.

But for those who already have lost the ability to drive, the benefits of the Travel Training can be realized immediately.

The second part of the program calls for monthly excursions for participants to continue to practice what they learned at the initial event. Participants will be able to sign up for the monthly follow-ups after the April event.

This will continue the education and confidence-building process to get out there.

“You would be surprised how frightened seniors are just to step onto a bus. If they think the step of the bus is up too high, for a lot of them that’s a barrier, they literally don’t feel like they can get on the bus,” said Elaine Roberts Musser, who chairs the Davis Senior Citizens Commission.

“Seniors have a lot of angst about riding public transit and the idea behind this sort of an event is to try to get them over the hump in a group so they feel safe about riding public transit.”

Roberts Musser also says this program will provide much-needed social connections for seniors.

Teri Sheets, assistant general manager of Unitrans, which is partnering with the city and the other stakeholders to put on this event, is well aware of the hurdles seniors face when considering taking public transit.

“A number of our drivers have come to … management and expressed their concerns about the wide array of mobility devices out there and some of them are much more difficult to secure on the buses than others,” Sheets said Monday. “My personal feeling is that that could be a contributor to folks not wanting to ride the bus because they’re not sure they’re going to be secure.

“So that’s led us to find ways we can help the physical equipment end that we would contribute toward this effort.”

Abbanat said he needs volunteers for the event and the monthly follow-up excursions, as well as potential one-on-one training sessions. Anyone interested in helping out the program can contact him at [email protected].

— Reach Tom Sakash at [email protected] or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @TomSakash

Tom Sakash

Tom Sakash covers the city beat for The Davis Enterprise. Reach him at [email protected], (530) 747-8057 or @TomSakash.
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