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Travel-training workshops aim to set new riders up for success

Travel-training workshops aim to set new riders up for success

Travel training manager Chris Chan stands outside Lansdowne Station

Public transit in every city has its own distinct quirks.

Chris Chan learned this as a newcomer to Canada in the 1990s. Arriving from Hong Kong, Chris and his family were expert transit riders — that is until they started riding transit in Metro Vancouver.

While both cities have buses and trains, they quickly discovered several seemly trivial differences that made riding public transit a daunting and unwelcoming experience.

His first bus ride was memorable for the wrong reasons — when ready to disembark, his family didn’t know how to signal this to the bus operator.

In Hong Kong, transit riders push a red stop button rather than pulling the cord that runs along the window of Metro Vancouver buses. Fortunately for them, a fellow rider pulled the cord and they were able to disembark.

But another time, Chris and his family wasn’t as fortunate. This time, they didn’t know how to open the rear door as in their experience the bus operator opened the doors.

“I can’t open this. Why is it not opening? Is the driver not letting me off?” recalls Chris.

“We actually missed our first bus stop because we weren’t able to open it.”

As Manager, Travel Training at TransLink, Chris is on a mission to ensure new riders are setup for success as part of fostering a transit system that is welcoming to all ages and abilities. He strongly believes everyone has a right to independent travel.

“Transportation is a small part of each person’s day, but it’s the part of the day that makes everything else possible,” says Chris.

His travel-training workshops aim to instill confidence in participants and provide them the information they need to ride transit, so that they can travel independently.

Chris Chan delivers his travel training workshop to a group of participants at Lansdowne Station

Over the years, workshops have been delivered for myriad groups, including the Canucks Autism Network, S.U.C.C.E.S.S., and different senior centres across Metro Vancouver.

Supporting newcomers from Ukraine

Chris’s latest workshops have been for arriving Ukrainians to support them in developing the skills to move around the region on transit independently with confidence as they settle.

These are delivered in partnership with the United Way of the Lower Mainland and settlement service agencies. The first one was held on June 9 at Lansdowne Station with many more planned.

Chris, along with a translator, Canada Line Attendants and an instructor from Coast Mountain Bus Company’s operator training department, demonstrated how to navigate the transit system.

On the bus, they outlined the basic features of the bus such as where to sit if one has a stroller, the stop indicator, and the bus chime. They also demonstrated how to open the doors and use text message to find out when the bus route will arrive at the bus stop.

At the SkyTrain station, the team showed participants how to use the Compass Vending Machines, how to tap in/out, and how to use telephones available at SkyTrain platforms for assistance.

A CMBC instructor demonstrates how to use the phone at Lansdown Stationto reach Customer Information

We didn’t forget about fun too. The team also provided a rundown of attractions they can visit around Vancouver that are accessible by transit.

As part of this, we have made Compass Cards available for people who attend the travel-training workshop, so they can start riding transit right away and apply what they have learned.

The United Way and Canadian Red Cross, on our behalf, has also distributed about 400 DayPass Compass Tickets, along with our colour book and “Getting Around Metro Vancouver on Transit” brochure.

Says Chris, “It’s important that we are aware of how important our work in the transportation industry is for newcomers to settle, because a lot of times we are the only options they have.”

Travel training has been identified as one of the ways we can help newcomers and we are proud to support with this as a start.