Cherriots wants to help you learn to ride the bus — it’s fun and easy

When Lisa Carignan was 19, she took a solo trip to Europe, learning for herself how to navigate public transportation.

“I was so nervous I wouldn’t be able to figure it out, but I also realized it couldn’t be that hard if so many other people were able to do it,” she says. “The sense of accomplishment I felt when I successfully completed each and every trip was something I will never forget.”

Those experiences laid the foundation for her role at Cherriots, where Carignan works as an outreach representative, teaching others how to effectively use the local bus system.

“Cherriots offers individualized travel training as well as group transit classes and group transit orientation,” she says. “The objective is for anyone who wants to ride the bus to feel comfortable and confident that they have the skills necessary to meet their specific travel needs and goals.”

Thinking back on her own experiences in Europe, she says she gained confidence each time she would successfully complete a trip, and that it “helped build a strong foundation for having the confidence to achieve and experience people and places and life in a way that I will carry with me forever.”

Carignan finds common reasons for using the bus later in life include vision loss, taking medications that affect the ability to drive, having to use a mobility device such as a power chair or scooter, or financial concerns.

But she sees them as unwilling to be bound to these obstacles. “They are ready to be independent, they want to experience their community and I am honored to come alongside them and help them gain the skills necessary to travel independently with confidence,” she says.

How to use the program

When Carignan receives a call from interested riders, she sets up a time to visit their home and talk about their goals as it relates to riding the bus.

“We talk about concerns they might have,” she says. “We come up with a plan to accomplish their desired goals and set a date to meet to travel from their home to their desired destinations by bus. The learning is hands-on for the most part.”

Some riders are interested in using technology to assist with trip planning, so Carignan practices using Google Maps and the transit trip planner. Most of the time, they choose one or two destinations and work on using the bus to reach their destinations until they feel comfortable going it alone.

“Many times, people branch out from there because they have built up their confidence to plan other trips independently,” she says. “Other times, people will call me up and say they have another place they are hoping to learn to get to by bus, and I am happy to work with them again.”

She’s been helping local residents learn to use public transportation for the past 12 years and has met thousands of people.

“I love seeing that glimmer in a person’s eye when they realize that riding the bus is a viable option for them,” Carignan says. “They realize it is safe, clean, reliable and efficient to use the bus, which are often concerns people have when they are unfamiliar with riding the bus.”

Margrethe and Greg Gregg started using Cherriots when sponsoring a young Brazilian couple taking English classes at Chemeketa Community College.

“Lisa gave us bus passes, and it was super fun,” Margrethe says. “At a certain point we are thinking we won’t have a car. It’s amazing to see the bus schedule, how to get around and do stuff I haven’t done before.”

Carignan expects the program to generate “more confident and safe riders,” especially older adults and people with disabilities. Some 283,000 trips last quarter were taken by these riders who make up a significant portion of Cherriots’ ridership.

“Cherriots even offers mobility device training,” she adds. “This training provides individuals using mobility devices an opportunity for additional practice boarding and exiting a bus in a safe, relaxed environment so they can feel confident that they have the skills necessary to board an in-service bus safely and efficiently.”

Carignan teaches classes in the computer lab at Center 50+ on how to plan a trip using public transit. They also take “transit adventures.” Last fall they rode the bus to Mount Angel and enjoyed an afternoon at Oktoberfest.

“It was a great experience for all,” she says. “Many of the older adults who utilize Center 50+ are very active and looking for opportunities to pick up a new skill.”

For more information or for customer service, call 503-588-2877 between the hours of 6:15 a.m. to 8:45 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Good to know

A fleet of 64 Cherriots Local buses operate on 21 routes in Salem and Keizer. Each runs on clean diesel or compressed natural gas, and is ADA-accessible with front-load bike racks that accommodate up to two bicycles at a time.

for those with disabilities: Cherriots Local offers these services:

▶Low floor and equipped with ramps and a lower-step function (kneeling).

▶Announcement system that identifies major streets and transfer points.

▶Bus stop improvements that include curb ramps at intersections as well as benches and shelters at many locations.

Regions served: Marion and Polk counties, including an express route to Wilsonville. The buses also provide service to rural Marion and Polk counties, including Woodburn, the Santiam Canyon, Silverton, Dallas, Independence and Monmouth. Regional buses run Monday through Friday and connect to the Salem Downtown Transit Center.

Shop and ride: “Another transportation service that serves older adults are Cherriots Shop and Ride,” Carignan says of the service that lets riders get around town more easily. “This service is available to a person with a disability or who is 60 and older.”

All Shop and Ride buses are ADA-accessible and shuttle riders to designated store locations to buy groceries and other household items. Reservations are needed to use the shared-ride service.

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