Laketran helps students improve life skills through interactive travel training program

By Chad Felton, The News Herald | Monday, February 13, 2017

Students from Lake County school districts are taking advantage of a long-standing supplemental educational program that can literally take them where they wish.

Well, as long as the coveted destinations fall within Laketran’s designated routes, that is.

Students from Fairport Harbor, Mentor and Willoughby are learning how to use the transit agency’s services through its interactive travel training program. Teachers from school districts across the county use the program to teach students practical life skills in addition to application of those skills in real-world situations, such as public transportation usage.

The travel training program begins with an in-class lesson, shortly followed by an on-board trip. A travel trainer visits a classroom to teach trip planning (with schedules and online real-time rider tools), safety skills and fare pay. After learning these concepts, students have an on-board experience accompanied by a travel trainer. The teacher selects a destination and students use their newfound skills to arrive.

“We mainly work in classrooms with students with disabilities because the program can help teachers meet curriculum standards like teaching functional math, reading skills or budgeting when preparing to pay your bus fare,” said Laketran Director of Communications and Marketing Julia Schick. “But with younger people choosing to not drive, we also get quite a few requests from young adults after graduation looking for transportation options to a job or the community college.”

The program is a self-paced process where an individual or group, regardless of ability or age, can learn to ride Laketran’s Local RoutesDial-a-Ride or Park-n-Ride services. The program can be personalized to a rider’s specific destination and needs.

The goal of travel training is for riders to become comfortable traveling on the bus, gain mobility and independence, and broaden their involvement in Lake County.

“Introducing students to public transportation at a young age provides them with a unique set of skills and allows them to build a sense of confidence and independence for riding in the future,” Schick said. “Learning how to use the bus system now will benefit these students when they graduate and start looking for colleges, jobs or housing. They will be able to rely on these skills in their everyday lives.”

Individual travel training is also available. Travel trainers provide home visits to meet with people individually to discuss Laketran’s services and decide which services best fits their respective needs.

In 2016, 90 individuals and 50 classrooms and senior groups participated in transit agency’s 10-year-old program.

Transition Coordinator Jan Baldree, who has been involved with Fairport Schools for nearly 20 years, believes Laketran’s program helps develop social skills as well.

“Students can coordinate going shopping at the mall, going bowling or going to the movies with friends,” she said. “That’s very important. We don’t want them sitting around all day at home.

“And many students tell us how they use it over the summer to get to many places. That’s what I want to hear. We begin to reach out to them during middle school to introduce them to the program. The more independent they can be, the more successful they can be after they graduate.”

Travel training is a free program for any group or individual in Lake County.

For more information, contact Laketran Communication Specialist Kerry Jonke at 440-350-1008.