The Metropolitan Center for Independent Living (MCIL) is launching a new program to help persons with disabilities use public transportation more independently. The MCIL Travel Training Program is designed to teach participants how to travel safely and effectively in their communities, using public transit when appropriate. Program start-up coincides with the regional Metro Transit bus fleet becoming 100 percent wheelchair-accessible; all buses are now lift-equipped.
“Accessible public transit provides another option for persons with disabilities,” said Lyn Wiley, the program’s travel instructor. “Public transit may not be appropriate for everyone or for every trip. But it does work for a lot of people.”
Wiley is experienced in training persons with disabilities to navigate regular route bus service. She has a master’s degree in Orientation and Mobility, in addition to a bachelor’s degree in Travel Instruction.
“Travel training programs already exist in other large metropolitan areas like New York and Philadelphia, and they’ve been very successful in teaching many people with disabilities how to ride regular route service,” Wiley said.
“There are a lot of benefits for people who learn to ride the bus. For example, people certified for Metro Mobility [the region’s primary paratransit door-to-door service] can ride the regular route bus service for 50 cents any time of the day, while that same ride on Metro Mobility could cost up to three dollars once the new Metro Mobility fares take effect in August. That’s a great savings for riders!
“Another advantage of the regular route bus is its availability. Riders don’t have to call up to four days in advance to schedule a ride. In fact, some of the more popular routes have buses running every 15 to 30 minutes,” she said.
Wiley said the MCIL Travel Training program is available to all persons with disabilities who want to try using the regular route bus for at least some of their travel needs. Participants who are certified after completing the training program will get a free 60-day pass to ride regular route buses. Metro Mobility riders are encouraged to participate in the program.
Wiley said topics covered in the training include planning a trip, boarding a bus, using the bus lift (if needed), problem-solving various transit situations, maintaining your orientation and understanding transit fares and policies.
“Some people will be trying regular route transit for the first time. Others are looking at expanding their current use of transit, especially now that Metro Transit’s fleet is totally wheelchair-accessible,” she said. “The MCIL Travel Training Program is individualized to each participant’s abilities and knowledge of regular route service. The duration of the training depends on the needs of the participant.
“The training is typically very hands-on, so most of the training will take place while on the bus, at the bus stop—or points between,” Wiley said.
Referrals for the program will be accepted from consumers with disabilities, their parents or guardians, case managers, disability consumer groups, counselors and agency coordinators. Travel Training Referral Forms can be requested by calling the MCIL at 651-646-8342 (voice) or 651-603-2001 (TTY). Referral forms can also be obtained through the MCIL Web site (www.mcil-mn.org) or the Metropolitan Council Web site (www.metrocouncil.org).
Upon receipt of the referral, the travel instructor will contact the applicant within seven business days. There is a flat fee of $10 per person for the training. The fee is used to help defray the cost of bus training passes. A coupon worth $5 off the training fee (see below) is available. It will also be available in both the MCIL and Metro Mobility newsletters, and must be presented at the time the program fee is paid.
Funding for the MCIL Travel Training Program is provided by the Metropolitan Council. For more information, please contact the Metropolitan Center for Independent Living at 1600 University Avenue W., Suite 16, St. Paul, MN, 55104—or use the phone numbers above.