Reliable, accessible public transportation is a lifesaver for many of us. But transit systems work differently in different cities, states, and countries and no-one wants to hold up the morning commute by asking endless questions or fumbling for the correct fare. Regionally, Intercity Transit provides fast, free, safe service seven days a week. For newcomers to the area, as well as those new to riding transit, they also offer Travel Training and Bus Buddies to teach folks when, where and how to ride.

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Intercity Transit offers Bus Buddy and Travel Training programs to help new riders master the system. Photo courtesy: Intercity Transit

Travel Training can be provided one-on-one or in small group settings. It is self-paced and teaches you how to plan your trip, understand schedules, find bus stops, make transfers and communicate your needs with the driver.

Bus Buddies on the other hand are experienced volunteer riders who are paired with a new rider or anyone who needs a little assistance to answer questions, walk them through things and share advice in real time, on real trips. They can also work with groups planning fun outings to concerts, museums and other exciting destinations like the Puyallup Fair, Port Townsend and the Washington State History Museum. These are planned in advance, and you can even join a trip if it catches your eye.

“A Travel Trainer teaches a person all the necessary skill of riding the bus,” explains Travel Training Coordinator Diana Claus. “A Bus Buddy is a volunteer who rides as a companion for people who have all of the skills but are not ready to go alone.”

“Travel Training is best suited to teach riders who are new to, or have limited experience, riding public transportation,” says fellow Coordinator Christina Loomis. “Travel Training is also a great resource for school transition students, seniors who want to transition away from driving and those new to the area. Travel Training also works with people using new mobility devices, such as power chairs or scooters. We help them learn how to maneuver their device on to the bus, position it for securement and disembark with the device.”

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Volunteer Bus Buddies ride along with you to learn the ropes and get comfortable with your journey. Photo courtesy: Intercity Transit

“The Bus Buddy program is a great choice for planned field trips using public transportation,” continues Loomis. “They are also a companion service for individuals using public transportation in need of someone to go shopping or to the doctor’s office with them. The Bus Buddy can provide trip information, assistance with groceries and assistance getting to and from medical appointments.”

Claus explains that “Travel Trainers are paid employees of Intercity Transit while Bus Buddy is a volunteer program of Catholic Community Services, funded by a grant from the Washington State Department of Transportation, that works closely with Intercity Transit. The Bus Buddy program has one part-time paid coordinator and 11 volunteers.”

Both programs are free and open to anyone who wants to learn how to ride Intercity Transit’s bus service. Riders can start with Travel Training then use a Bus Buddy to make sure they fully understand before taking on solo exploration. There is no time limit to the use of either program. The goal is to make riders feel fully prepared to ride day or night. “There’s no shame in not knowing how to do something,” stresses Claus. “We are here to help you to achieve your independent transportation goals.”

Riders use these services for a variety of needs and for a varying amount of time. One rider needed help planning her trip from home to SPSCC. After one session, she had it figured out. Another rider likes to attend church in Tacoma once a month but can’t travel alone. An older client who recently moved into a retirement home asked for help with her first ride to and from the new location, while a handicapped rider asked for help getting to a new job. Both mastered things in just a few sessions.

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Travel Training can be one-on-one or small group classes. They’re self-paced and explain all IT has to offer. Photo courtesy: Intercity Transit

To request help, there are several ways to reach out. Simply call Travel Training at 360.705.5879, Customer Service at 360.786.1881, email traveltraining@intercitytransit.com, go to their website, or stop by the office located at the downtown Olympia Transit Center. For a Bus Buddy request, call 360.688.8832 and provide 72-hour notice for local trips and three to five business days for trips outside the county. Want a presentation for your group or organization? Email BusBuddies@intercitytransit.com and schedule one today.

Americans board public transportation 34 million times each weekday, according to the American Public Transportation Association. But each of those riders was once a new rider, nervously preparing for their very first trip. Intercity Transit’s Travel Trainers and Bus Buddies want your next ride to be smooth and hassle-free. Let them help you find a low stress transportation solution and get rolling again.

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