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April 11, 2013 | 0 Comments

Riding Along During Metro Transit’s Personalized Travel Training Program

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Travel Trainer John McKenney and trainee Jim.

Travel Trainer John McKenney and trainee Jim.

Last month, I told you about the great program offered by Metro Transit’s ADA Services team. The   Travel Training Program teaches individuals who qualify for reduced fares or ADA paratransit services, how to ride MetroBus and MetroLink independently.

Early one morning, I tagged along with John McKenney, a veteran Transit Trainer and former MetroBus operator. Like all transit trainers,  John was prepared to meet his trainee with an easy to read fixed schedule, and travel tips.

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Jim using the lift to board a MetroBus during travel training.

We met Metro customer Jim at his home near Tower Grove Park. Jim gets around using a motorized scooter. Previously he primarily utilized Metro Call-A-Ride services to get to his volunteer work, but it just wasn’t cost effective. Jim found out about travel training through ADA Services, and immediately wanted to learn more.

“I wanted to learn how to get around when I wanted to. It has given me a lot of independence,” Jim told me as we waited for the first MetroBus of our trip. This was his eighth travel training. “Each time I have a new place I need to go, volunteering or something; I call them up for training. I know how to read schedules and use the lifts, but it gives me more confidence to take the trip for the first time with a trainer.”

Traveling along with Jim, I gained a new perspective on how difficult getting around the city can be for someone with a physical disability. Jim had to navigate through cracked and uprooted sidewalks, around huge puddles and mud, and in many cases, had to take a longer route because the shortest distance was not accessible with his scooter.

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Travel Trainer John McKenney and trainee Jim heading to a MetroBus stop

“The hardest part about using public transportation and getting around are the sidewalks. The city sidewalks are treacherous,” Jim said. He told me that to get to his nearest bus stop he has to travel in the road because the sidewalks are not manageable.

Sidewalks aside, Jim told me that using Metro has been relatively easy. “If I have a question I asked security or the operator and for the more part, other Metro riders are willing to help. Some will even raise the seat for me when I get on the bus. It makes me feel a lot more comfortable.

During our trip, trainer John was there with Jim every step of the way. He explained which routes and directions we would be traveling in and pointed out different landmarks and intersecting routes. “I like being able to help people learn how to use Metro. But, I do miss driving those buses,” John joked.

On this specific trip, first we took MetroBus, then MetroLink, and then caught another MetroBus to get to Jim’s target destination. As we were driving along, we passed a large shopping center, “I’ve always wanted to know how to get here!” Jim exclaimed. “Learned two new routes today.”

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Travel Trainer John McKenney and trainee Jim at a MetroLink station.

Traveling with Jim and John really showed me just how special, and important our ADA Services Travel Training Program is. Not only is Jim a travel training alumnus, he is also an advocate. He travels around with Metro’s Travel Training Specialist Michael McDermott speaking to groups who may be interested in finding out more about Travel Training.

“Mike invites me out to talk about my experience, and I like to share how it has given me more independence,” Jim shared. “These guys have really been great.”

To learn more about Metro’s ADA Services Travel Training Program, click here.

To view more photos click here.

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