I don’t ride the bus. There are several reasons why. I have a disconcerting and unreasonable fear of getting lost and not finding my way back home. It can be a nervous feeling to stand at a bus stop and not know which bus to get on. Plus, I simply have not tried.
Now ask yourself, how would you use the bus or other forms of transportation if you were not only uncertain about what to expect but were a person living with a disability, or who didn’t speak English? People in the Puget Sound Region face these and other barriers every day.
You can help people trapped in this dilemma by volunteering with the travel training programs offered through Hopelink. These programs empower people by facilitating access to the community.
Hopelink is a nonprofit social service agency that serves at-risk families and individuals. Two of the Travel Training Programs offered by Hopelink are: 1) Getting Around Puget Sound (GAPS) and 2) Ride Around the Sound (RAS).
GAPS provides travel resources that connect individuals with materials and valuable information about travel options. Volunteers go to gathering places such as community centers, libraries, and food banks. In these community settings, people can learn about the ORCA card, riding the bus, taxis, accessing volunteer drivers, ride sharing, and navigating our vast and sometimes complex transit system.
RAS offers free guided excursions on public transit for groups unfamiliar with the transportation system in the Puget Sound area. It is offered to immigrant and refugee populations, veterans, persons with lower incomes or those with Limited English Proficiency (LEP). Those who go on these trips gain an increased sense of independence and mobility by learning to ride transit to service locations, cultural sites, or educational events. These outings are led by Hopelink staff and volunteers.
Moira Ohl is the program manager for GAPS and RAS. She is delightful, professional and energetic. Her passion for work in the community is infectious. Moira conveyed a story about an immigrant husband and wife, who like many others in their situation, were finding themselves unaccustomed to using public transportation in this country. Using the RAS program, they were booked on a trip to tour around the city of Seattle and spent time at the Pike Place Market. The experience was freeing for them and the next day, on their own, they used the bus to transport themselves back to the Market. This is just one example of how the RAS program made a difference in their quality of life.
Ohl told me, “Travel Training is more than instructing how to get from point A to point B. We are focused on working with the various needs of individuals and their unique situations – with the hope that their confidence has increased.”
Volunteers report that the rewards of giving their time to the Travel Training Programs at Hopelink gives them the satisfaction of providing individuals with the independence that comes from showing them how to be self-sufficient.
If you are independent, self-reliant and flexible, these opportunities could be a perfect match for you. Contact RSVP at 206.694.6786 if you would like to find out more.
Trying new things can be daunting, but it is worse not to know how to go about doing them. I am now determined to learn how to ride the bus!