Boarding public transit for the first time can be an intimidating experience for some people.
They can become even more anxious about taking a bus if they have a disability or can’t read or speak English very well.
It is because of those concerns that Winnipeg Transit now offers travel training sessions to ease people’s fears and make them feel more comfortable about hopping on a bus.
Training is adapted to the specific needs of groups and individuals including those who use mobility devices. The group sessions usually consist of 30-minutes of in-class presentation, followed by a 45-minute bus ride.
"The goal of travel training is to teach people who are unfamiliar with riding transit how to take transit," said Winnipeg Transit information supervisor Jonathon Borland.
Borland said the department has offered hundreds of travel training sessions over the past five years.
Travel trainer Ernie Hnatiuk conducted a tutorial session for about 20 people at the Brooklands Pioneer Senior Centre on Oct. 9. The session was offered through a four-year partnership between Winnipeg Transit and Transportation Options Network for Seniors (TONS).
TONS board chair Linda Rigaux said the need for educating Winnipeg seniors about public transit was identified in a University of Winnipeg study on Manitoba seniors’ transportation. At that time, the city was already offering travel training, but the sessions were not specifically aimed at seniors.
Bernice Shaver travelled by bus from St. Boniface to the Weston location to attend the bus tutorial. While she is a regular bus rider, she said she wanted to learn more about bus schedules.
Norine Goulet drives but doesn’t like searching or paying for downtown parking and is considering taking the bus for her next trip downtown.
Hnatiuk opened his presentation with an old photo showing horses and wagons that were the earliest form of group transportation in the city.
"If they got spooked, they were our first rapid transit system," he joked.
Hnatiuk explained how priority seating reserves seats and space in a bus’ first two rows for those who use wheelchairs, walkers, or crutches, have visual or balance issues, or are pushing strollers.
He told the group that riders who need more time to get safely seated should advise their driver upon entering the bus.
"All you have to say to the driver is that you need time to sit, and they will wait," he said.
Hnatiuk also explained the various ways in which people can check on bus schedules including the Navigo function on the City of Winnipeg’s website that displays up to five different ways of getting to a single destination.
Bus transfers can be used to travel on any number of buses for one hour and 15 minutes.
"You don’t have to use two bus tickets to shop for a few groceries and maybe meet a friend for coffee,"Hnatiuk said.
Borland said the partnership with TONS has been quite successful to date. He said that was borne out by the large number of seniors who chose to take the bus to a Seniors’ and Elders’ Day event held at the Winnipeg Convention Centre on Sept. 28.
More bus tutorial sessions are being offered at Winnipeg seniors’ centres until Nov. 13. A schedule is available at www.tonsmb.org.
Hnatiuk said he’s able to work with anyone who feels they need one-on-one bus training as well as with groups. He can be reached by calling 204-391-5125 or TRNfirstname.lastname@example.org.