Travel training helps riders gain independence
King County Metro Transit provides free bus and light rail travel training to over 500 would-be riders a year. It’s the job of transit instruction staff to assist people in getting where they need to go. Each person comes with their unique story. “We adapt and help them take that leap of faith. They trust us and we honor that,” said Amanda Bryant Supervisor of Metro Transit Instruction. A success story from 2011 shows first-hand the independence riders gain through the Transit Instruction program.
Janet Anderson knew Ballard High School was just a bus ride away for her son, Matthew Anderson, but as a teen with high-functioning autism, she also knew he needed a helping hand so he could gain more independence.
After hearing about a Metro Transit program that helps individuals with disabilities learn how to use public transportation, Janet saw a path for Matthew. The two soon met with an instructor to learn about Matthew’s skills and what bus routes he could take to school.
With a signed pledge that he would be “ready to go” when the trainer arrived each day, Matthew started learning the ropes of taking the bus.
“Kay showed up at our home for the first day of training at 7:10 a.m. (in the dark). She walked with Matthew to the bus stop and showed him how to pay his fare, and accompanied him as he transferred busses and arrived safe and sound at Ballard High School,” Janet Anderson said. She also met him at the end of the school day and showed him how to ride the bus home. “At the completion of each journey, she called to tell me how Matthew did and to assure me he had safely arrived at his destination.”
Over the course of several days, Kay gave Matthew more responsibility and let him maneuver the bus system on his own as she stood watch. One rainy morning she called to report that Matthew had been so distracted with his faulty umbrella that she thought they would miss the stop for Ballard High School. Still, somehow, Matthew intuitively knew to get off at the right place despite being totally absorbed in fixing the umbrella.
After five days, Kay was confident that Matthew had the bus routine solidly in hand and said goodbye to him. “Unbeknownst to him, she shadowed him the next day to make sure he knew what he was doing,” Janet Anderson said. “He passed the test with flying colors! She came by that afternoon to tell him how proud she was and give him a certificate of achievement.”
Matthew gained the confidence and skills to take the bus to and from school each day. “As he walks off into the dark dawn each day, my heart is in my throat,” Janet Anderson said. “My baby boy is taking a big step toward independence each day as he walks down our street to the bus stop. He says that riding the bus makes him feel older. It makes me feel older, too.”