I can distinctly remember the first time I rode a city bus. My cold hands fumbled and dropped the spare quarters in my hand as I stood anxiously waiting for CTA Route 151 to arrive. On the bus, I struggled to locate the correct slot for my change, stumbled on the way to a seat, and requested my stop several blocks too soon, all the while avoiding eye contact with other passengers like the plague.
I’ve come a long way since 2008, and can’t think of anything MORE fun than figuring out a new transit system. In fact, for the past five years I’ve had the unique opportunity to teach over 400 young adults with developmental disabilities how to ride the bus in my role as a Program Coordinator for Programs to Educate All Cyclists (PEAC). PEAC is a non-profit organization based in Ypsilanti, and our mission is to empower individuals with disabilities through cycling and active transportation education.
My students and I want to see more people using transit in Southeast Michigan, and would like to challenge YOU to give it a try. Here are some of our collective suggestions:
- Grab a friend (or two or three). Travelling on the bus for the first time is a lot more fun when you’re with other people.
- Plan ahead. Find a fun destination, take time to review bus schedules, and know what your fare will be. Most transit agencies have some very useful how-to-ride videos on their website. Check them out to familiarize yourself with the trip before you go.
- Don’t be afraid to reach out to the bus driver on your trip. It’s ok to be a newbie, and we’ve found questions to be greatly appreciated!
- Share your experience with others. Talk with a skeptical friend and invite them on your next trip. Share a photo on Facebook/Instagram/Twitter of you at the bus stop. Provide feedback to the service provider using their online comment system (the positives and negatives!). Let’s start to spread some transit love, and advocate for what can improve.
- Set a transit goal. Is there a bus route near your house? Challenge yourself to use this to get to work/the library/appointments once a month, once a week, or every day!
You can learn more about PEAC’s cycling and transit adventures by liking us on Facebook at Programs to Educate All Cyclists, Instagram and Twitter @everyonecanride. Hope to see you on a bus soon!
TAKE ACTION: Watch the inspiring video above about what the bus means to youth in PEAC's program! In early 2015, PEAC was selected by the Michigan Fitness Foundation and the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) to host a Community Conversation with the young people we serve in our Active Transportation Program to learn more about the places they need to go, how they currently travel there, and any travel challenges they face.