Transit and Tea; two things that rarely go together, are making their way to one of the biggest transportation conferences in the United States. The Transit and Tea program, created by Schuyler County Mobility Manager Amber Simmons, will be presented at the Rural Transit Assistance Program (RTAP) conference in Omaha, Nebraska on October 31.
Transit and Tea was created in 2011 as a way to introduce Schuyler County Transit to area riders and help them become comfortable using public transportation through formal transit training with a twist.
According to Simmons, “Formal training is very valuable for people who have a hard time using busses, but they need more than just a ride.” The twist to the formal training that Simmons’ program provides is social interaction, or changing the bus ride from a ride, to a social event enjoyed by all.
Simmons knows that driving around on a bus isn’t enough to get people comfortable with this style of transportation. Instead of pointing out stops, Simmons acts as a guide, accompanying each Transit and Tea on the bus to emphasize the opportunities for recreation, shopping, medical office visits and more at each stop. The stop at 9th St. and Decatur St. for instance, is perfect for visiting Watkins Glen State Park, while the 12th St. and Porter St. stop is a short walk from the local library. These details get people excited about getting out to enjoy their community via public transit.
Simmons’ presentation will also focus on how she breaks formal training into three sessions. The first is a Q&A where riders are provided an overview of bus riding. Topics like reading a schedule, flagging a bus, and timing are all covered before the Transit and Tea group gets the bus. Part of Simmons’ plan is to help familiarize people with the organizations, businesses, and opportunities in their community, so the first session is often held at a café or bakery where riders can get a small snack or drink, such as tea, before the bus ride. The second session is a ride between two locations, with a pre-planned start and end bus stop. The third session is a trip determined by the riders.
“People just want to be able to use the bus in their daily lives and have it not be a scary experience,” Simmons said. She hopes attendees at the RTAP conference will walk away from her presentation with an idea they can replicate in their communities.
Amber Simmons is employed by The Arc of Schuyler to provide mobility management services through a partnership with Schuyler County. For more information about mobility management, Schuyler County Transit, or the Transit and Tea program, visit www.schuylercountytransit.org or call 607.535.3555.