[IMAGE]group.jpg[/IMAGE]Begun in 2007 as a way to potentially increase its senior citizen ridership, Calif.-based Torrance Transit's Senior Ambassador program recruits and trains the city's seniors about the system, in hopes of providing them more transportation options.
"We have a taxi cab program in our city seniors can use, but it was far more expensive than the 25 cents a ride we charge for our buses," said Jim Mills, transit administration manager for Torrance Transit. "Knowing that seniors are on fixed incomes and money is always an issue for most of them, we wanted to try to figure out a way we could stretch their dollars as well as increase their mobility."
The program utilizes senior citizen volunteers who, Mills explained, went through training and learned how to read maps and schedules, where Torrance Transit's lines went, the do's and don'ts of public transportation and the sensitivities of seniors and disabled riders.
Each ambassador was also given a special red windbreaker and Torrance Transit hat to make them easily identifiable, as well as a pass good for free rides on the system for them and a guest, so that they can show interested seniors what it's actually like to ride the bus.
Torrance Transit also invited seniors to take free field trips to some of the places its system went, such as Los Angeles' Union Station and nearby Olvera Street and the local farmer's market. As part of the trip, the senior ambassadors would also give a presentation about the agency and program.
"We came up with the idea because who better to educate than other seniors? They talk the same language, have the same fears and share similar experiences," explained Mills. "We are getting a baby boomer group that appears to be healthier, and we in the public sector are going to have to find a way to address some of their transportation needs."
[IMAGE]inside.jpg[/IMAGE]Torrance Transit's next goal is to visit the senior living communities that are on or near its routes to possibly recruit new riders. It has also commissioned a line-by-line analysis of its system, where one of the questions being addressed is if seniors living in those communities would ride the system if the routes were adjusted.
So far, Torrance Transit has seen an increase in its senior ridership and, indirectly, a decrease in some of its costs for its cab program.
"We like to take credit for it, but we've modeled it after other programs and just tailored it to our needs," said Mills. It's worked very nicely. I think it could work for just about anybody, you just have to have some folks to coordinate it and get seniors that are healthy, active and want to ride the transit system."