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17 Characteristics of Successful Travel Training Programs The Attributes of Successful Programs Key characteristics of successful travel training programs for older adults include at least the following elements: â¢ Success means demonstrating that older adults who have completed travel training programs have already experiÂ enced (or are quite likely to experience) measurable mobilÂ ity improvements. This means that they now have the skills to travel independently more often and to access more desÂ tinations within a reasonable level of expense, which all means that their mobility has improved. â¢ Success means that the travel training programs are targeting and graduating at least some persons who might otherwise be expected to face significant mobilÂ ity problems (for example, gradually losing their ability to drive and then losing their ability to access their key destinations). â¢ Success means that there are demonstrably positive outÂ comes for local transportation services: for example, riderÂ ship on fixed routes has increased, ridership on ADA paratransit has not increased to the extent otherwise expected without the travel training programs, seniors make greater use of other mobility options, and the cost of providing the training is reasonable compared to the benefits received. â¢ Success means that the program keeps accurate records of costs, activities, and results to better meet goals and manage the program, create a constant improvement cycle leading to greater cost effectiveness, and demonstrate results to key stakeholders. â¢ Success means that the travel training program is able to genÂ erate support that can sustain its activities over an extended period of time. Components of Successful Travel Training Programs Whatâs special and unique about successful programs? It appears that, to be successful, a travel training program must include competencies in a full range of travel training services, including outreach, training of trainers, training of individuÂ als, and other programs to meet constituentsâ needs. Successful travel training programs often focus on the following princiÂ ples and attributes, while taking advantage of unique factors in their communities: â¢ Developing an overall program philosophy. â¢ Creating standards for training and supporting travel trainers. â¢ Tailoring travel training to individual needs. â¢ Tailoring travel training to the local community. â¢ Hiring travel trainers with the right personal qualities. â¢ Providing strong organizational and management leaderÂ ship and support. â¢ Building and maintaining flexible, collaborative relationships. â¢ Involving and recognizing volunteers. â¢ Evaluating travel training outcomes and widely dissemiÂ nating success stories. â¢ Realizing the benefits of technology. â¢ Identifying and retaining funding sources. The following pages discuss these factors and offer some examples of how they have been applied by some successful programs. Developing an Overall Program Philosophy and Mission Most travel trainers emphasized that the purpose of the training is to increase the number of travel options available to C H A P T E R 3
18 people, not just to âget them off paratransit.â Travel training can benefit transit agencies by increasing the use of public tranÂ sit and contributing to a mobility options philosophy (proÂ viding people with more options). Some trainees reported informally that they used both paratransit and public transit after completing the training, depending on the purpose of trips and conditions in which they were undertaken. Mobility training benefits transit providers since it encourages the use of fixed route service, the most appropriate and costÂeffective transit options available. In Portland, Oregon, Ride Connection believes that a key to the success of its RideWise travel training program is its focus, in numerous ways, on creating a core philosophy and delivÂ ering a clear and consistent message to all members of the community. One component of this messaging is the focus on âbuilding trust in the most respectful way,â both with their travel training customers and with partners. A maniÂ festation of this is the practice of treating all trainees as âcusÂ tomers,â not âclientsâ or âstudents.â The focus on individuals as customers is a key component of its practice of mobility management, and this includes attention to the feelings of its customers, which may include concepts of dignity and fears of losing independence. It is vital to understand each person, and his or her unique skill sets, other resources, and travel needs. There is no typical training experience; the Ride Connection program is highly flexible and tailored to specific individuals. Creating Standards for Training and Supporting Travel Trainers Proficiency standards for staff members who are providing travel training are needed to ensure that travel training proÂ grams are effective and successful in training older persons to travel safely, independently and confidently on public transÂ portation systems. To train seniors successfully, travel trainers must be confident in their travel training skills and their abilÂ ity to be responsive to the capabilities of individual seniors they are training. The content and curricula of a program should be based on proven methods developed by training professionals; responsive to the needs, capabilities, and limiÂ tations of older persons; and connected to the public transit system that seniors would be riding. Some of this informaÂ tion is currently provided by Easter Seals Project ACTION in its Competencies for the Practice of Travel Instruction and Travel Training. See Appendix A, Part 3 for more information. In addition, travel training programs should ensure that they offer ongoing training and support services to their travel trainers so that the trainers are up to date on the latest trainÂ ing practices and feel that they are being supported in the sometimes difficult job of working with individual needs and personalities. Tailoring Travel Training to Individual Needs Many older adults do not need intensive assistance to expand their travel options. While some may not need individualized training to fulfill their travel needs, most successful training programs provide highly tailored oneÂonÂone training when appropriate. The initial step in meeting individual needs is to explore available transportation options with new customers based on that customerâs specific needs, ability level, and proxÂ imity to transit, as well as his or her wishes and transportation goals. Conducting an appointment with customers in their own home for an initial interview is a dataÂintensive means of starting a training program because of the insights it offers. If the decision is made to provide individualized training, other key steps include having the travel trainer scout preferred walkÂ ing and riding travel routes and establish an individualized training plan that may vary in length and intensity depending upon the individualâs response to the training program. Itâs important to understand each person, who they are. Everyone is so different; this allows us to be creative. Lisa Sempert and Devon Driscoll, Ride Connection For example, Via Mobilityâs oneÂonÂone training in Boulder, Colorado, is customized to the individual being trained. It includes an inÂhome mobility skills assessment, preÂtrip planÂ ning, and handsÂon travel training. Customization is based on an initial inÂhome assessment, completion of a training progress checklist during the training process, and a mobility training summary completed by the trainer upon training comÂ pletion. FollowÂup surveys are also conducted with trainees. In California, Riversideâs Freedom to Go travel training program has three fullÂtime travel trainers. Each of the travel trainers focuses on different segments of the population, with one of the three trainers focused on older adults. A number of older adults are more comfortable in training and travel situations when accompanied by friends, family members, or peers. Accommodations for this kind of supÂ port should be available when necessary. In Via Mobilityâs program in Boulder, volunteers are used as bus buddies to accompany riders and provide them with information and encouragement to build their skills and confidence. Tailoring Travel Training to Your Local Community It is extremely important to tailor travel training efforts to the persons and resources in your local community.
19 Understanding the local culture of senior citizens (a highlight of the Cambridge, Maryland, program) is vital, as is a comÂ plete and thorough inventory of local transportation services. Key factors include the local culture, resources, and spatial disÂ tribution of destinations. Understanding these factors is conÂ sidered a key part of any successful travel training program. Hiring Travel Trainers with the Right Personal Qualities A competent staff that excels in customer service is a key to program success. A common theme voiced by travel training staff (for example, in Chicago, Portland, Riverside, and SacraÂ mento) was that the personal qualities of trainers are often more important than job experience or background, although several programs have had substantial success employing trainers with a social services background. Key attributes of travel trainers are said to be as follows: â¢ Enjoying working with people and being able to connect with participants. â¢ Having personal traits such as empathy, likability, respect, patience, and kindness. â¢ Using transit on a regular basis (this enhances their credÂ ibility) and having established relationships in the transÂ portation community. â¢ Possessing flexibility, resilience, and calmness to deal with unexpected changes often encountered in the realÂworld training environment. Providing Strong Organizational and Management Leadership and Support The person leading the program makes a significant difÂ ference. A dynamic leader with strong interpersonal skills, a passion for this kind of work, and expertise in important areas related to the populations servedâincluding aging and disabilitiesâcan make a program quite successful. This perÂ son plays a central role in building and sustaining relationÂ ships with key organizational stakeholders in the community, as well as working directly with program participants. Whether travel training is provided by a public transit agency or another organization depends highly on local conditions and capabilities. The case studies included sucÂ cessful examples of transit and nonÂtransit leadership. Some transit agencies strongly value having the training program under their direct control; other transit agencies feel that all parties benefit from separating travel training and transit services because outside organizations have a greater flexÂ ibility in what they can do. This can specifically apply to the ability to use volunteer labor as part of the travel training program. Building and Maintaining Flexible, Collaborative Relationships As might be expected, all of the case study programs are heavily dependent on partnerships to support their travel trainÂ ing activities. Key partners include transit agencies (for examÂ ple, TriMet in Portland) that are not only a primary funding source, but also provide referrals to clients who could benefit from travel training. Human and social services agencies can provide referrals and develop travel training programs to assist their consumers. Senior centers, senior housing complexes, and hospitals can be key partners, particularly for group travel training. Several programs offer training to staff and volunteers in partnering agencies to make them aware of fixed route tranÂ sit options and the potential benefits of travel training for their clients. Word of mouth referrals are considered important. Programs need to be flexible so that they take advantage of opportunities that arise in the community and be responsive to the changing needs of the populations they serve. Such relaÂ tionships are critical to the success of the program because of the opportunity they afford to leverage resources as well as continue to bring people in need into the program. These relationships are the necessary starting point for trust, someÂ thing that is central to program success. Typical program partners include the local public transit system, adult and senior centers, mental health clinics, health care providers, community centers, health and rehabilitation centers, independent living resource centers, denominational community organizations, private taxi services, private transÂ portation providers, and other community organizations. In New Jersey, NJTIPâs partnerships with NJ TRANSIT, the towns in the sevenÂcounty service area, and social services agenÂ cies that work with seniors are continuing to provide forums for NJTIP to provide travel training to seniors. NJTIPâs abilÂ ity to ensure its sustainability by negotiating to become part of the Voorhees Center at Rutgers University is evidence of sound fiscal and educational practices and an endorsement of the programâs potential. NJTIPâs Connect to Transit Training Program teaches professionals and volunteers from social services agencies, schools, and senior residences how to become informed advocates for public transportation, so they can better assist their clients, students, and residents with navigating the public transportation network. The semiÂ nars are specifically geared to using NJ TRANSIT bus and rail systems. In Portland, Ride Connection has extremely strong support from TriMet, the local public transit system. Ride Connection started the RideWise program in 2004 as a result of needs identified by TriMetâs internal review process. Ride ConnecÂ tion has developed partnerships with more than 30 separate partner agencies in the area, including adult and senior cenÂ ters, mental health clinics, health care providers, and others. The Riderâs Voice is a book featuring the stories of 25 new
20 independent travelers and advocates who have shared in the RideWise experience. This book, whose development was paid for by TriMet, includes firstÂperson accounts of what it means to travel independently and to move about the comÂ munity with purpose and without harm. Both Ride ConnecÂ tion and TriMet have successfully used this book to educate their boards of directors and various members of the comÂ munity about the benefits of improving mobility for seniors and other individuals who might need travel training or other support to become more independent in their use of travel options. Paratransit, Inc. works with the community to make sure that the travel training program is a success. They have creÂ ated relationships with senior communities, senior programs, and with senior centers in the Sacramento, California, area. The travel training program typically visits the senior comÂ plexes once a year to promote travel training. Paratransit, Inc. will return to a senior complex if requested based on turnover of the complex; if they are not asked, they will ask to come back in a year. One of the reasons that The Kennedy Center in ConnectiÂ cut (TKC) has been successful is that it has worked effectively with the many transit districts within the state, particularly those in the southwest part of the state as well as the larger urban transit districts throughout Connecticut. Its methods have been effective in training individuals, as recognized by feedback from participants to referring agencies and TKC, and as demonstrated by TKCâs continued success in being awarded statewide grant funding. Involving and Recognizing Volunteers Volunteers can play a critical role in reaching out to the wider community, especially when resources are scarce. Paratransit, Inc., Via Mobility, and Ride Connection make substantial use of volunteers. RideWise and its partners also see significant benÂ efits accruing to the volunteers who are involved in the proÂ gram, including an increased sense of purpose in their lives. Partner agencies report high levels of satisfaction among the volunteers who work with the RideWise program. The peerÂ toÂpeer volunteer model was seen as an important compoÂ nent of a successful program. Evaluating Travel Training Outcomes and Widely Disseminating Success Stories Evaluating travel training outcomes clearly requires detailed data records of costs and benefits. Information currently availÂ able focuses on the benefits of oneÂonÂone training; the benÂ efits of other training modes should also be documented. Transit agencies have discovered that mobility training costs are small when compared to the costs of ADA transit service, which can make the potential for savings substantial. In Sacramento, Paratransit, Inc. calculated that shifting just one paratransit user (who travels to work or to a program 5 days a week) to regular fixed route public transit can create a cost savings to an agency of more than $7,000 a year. Average cost savings for seniors are likely to be lower than this because older adults are not as frequently traveling to work or other 5Âday per week destinations. The cost avoidance over the last 17 years in Sacramento for all trainees has been calculated to be more than $20 million. Ride Connectionâs estimate of a 3 to 1 ratio of benefits to costs from its RideWise program is a conservative estimate of benefits for many reasons, one of them being that it is not calculating the longÂterm benefits of travel training, only the benefits over the first year that a trainee is using transit. Also, this estimate does not include benefits from the proÂ gramâs Ridersâ Club component. RideWise has demonstrated to TriMet, the local transit provider, that the productivity improvement attributable to its program has saved money for TriMet and has slowed the growth of TriMetâs ADA paraÂ transit services. At the same time, RideWise believes that one âcannot meaÂ sure program success solely by ADA cost avoidance.â RideWise staff see travel training as life affirming. In Sacramento, travel training is considered to be a valuable program because the trainers can see how the increasing independence in the abilÂ ity to get around changes the participantsâ personalities for the better. Based on followÂup calls, 75 percent of New Jerseyâs NJTIP program graduates continued to travel by fixed route buses and trains in the year after graduation. Their graduates used regular bus and train routes three times more often than they used paratransit. In New Jersey, there was an increase of 400 percent in per capita transit trips after graduation from the program. In Sacramento, between 80 percent and 92 perÂ cent of travel training graduates continue to rely on fixed route service within 3 months after successful completion of the training. In Boulder, program staff members noted that the most compelling evidence of success comes from individualsâ perÂ sonal stories about how their quality of life has been enhanced. Realizing the Benefits of Technology The Riverside Transit Agency (RTA) in Riverside provides an example of how farebox technology can be used to track ridership and demonstrate the results of its travel training program. Free fares on fixed route public transportation service are provided to people who have received travel training. This enables RTA to use farebox recording technology to measure and evaluate use of fixed route service after travel training has been completed. For people with disabilities using paratransit
21 service, RTA provides a monthly pass on a continuing basis for those who complete travel training and use fixed route service for their travel. For older adults not eligible for ADA paratransit service, RTA introduces travel training in a group session and selects one senior from a group to be the travel training advocate to encourage other seniors in the group to travel. The senior advocate receives a monthly pass for his or her use as seniors in the group complete travel training. Each senior who completes the training receives a monthly pass good for one month. RTA uses its farebox recording technology to track the fixed route travel, on a trainee by trainee basis, by seniors and people with disabilities who use their monthly pass to ride. If RTA observes that use of fixed route service has stopped or declined, travel trainers will check back with the riders to understand why their use has declined. Refresher training will be offered and completed to restore use of fixed route service. The Spokane [Washington] Transit Authority (STA) also uses Smart Card technology, developed by Innovative ParaÂ digms, a division of Paratransit, Inc., to track the use of public transit by mobility training graduates. STA has used this techÂ nology to record ADA paratransit trips avoided or deferred and to calculate the annual cost avoidance realized from their mobility training program. Innovative Paradigms has develÂ oped proprietary software that can be integrated with inÂperson eligibility programs and can monitor outreach, group, basic, and intensive training activities. Program reports can also be generated. Identifying and Retaining Funding and Other Resources Most programs are dependent on a few but highly focused funding sources, including the Federal Transit AdministraÂ tion (FTA), state departments of transportation (DOTs), state transit agencies, or local government agencies. Many programs have depended on funding from FTAâs Section 5317 New FreeÂ dom formula grant program which is intended to, according to FTA, âprovide additional tools to overcome existing barriÂ ers facing Americans with disabilities seeking integration into the work force and full participation in society.â When New Freedom funds are involved, this has meant that travel trainÂ ing for older adults has been provided in conjunction with travel training services provided to persons with disabilities. Because many of the 20 case study sites applied significantly different procedures to recording and reporting their budgets, expenses, and results, great care is needed when discussing their reported expenses. Programs that involved large numÂ bers of trainees and many kinds of activities showed larger expenses. Annual expenses reported ranged from tens of thouÂ sands of dollars for programs operating for only parts of a year or only reporting labor costs but no other costs to hundreds of thousands of dollars for the most robust programs. Among the seven inÂdepth case studies, the annual expenses reported ranged from a bit more than $145,000 (Via Mobility, Boulder, Colorado) to $855,000 (the Regional Transportation AuthorÂ ity, Chicago, Illinois, which reported the largest number of trainees of the cases studied). Note that, because accountÂ ing and reporting procedures differed from site to site, the expenses and their results reported by the case studies may not be strictly comparable. See the section titled âData LimiÂ tationsâ in Chapter 1 for more information. Via Mobility Services provides travel training services with funding from Boulder County, the City of Boulder, the DRMAC, the RTD, the United Way, and the Rose Foundation. Many of these latter sources provide funding to the overall Via Mobility Services, which then allocates them among its many programs. Revenues for Paratransitâs Mobility Training program in Sacramento come from vendor agreements with the Alta California Regional Center (ACRC) and the California State Department of Rehabilitation (DOR). The ACRC and DOR pay an hourly rate for training their clients. Additional fundÂ ing came from a New Freedom grant, a Job Access Reverses Commute (JARC) grant, and from the South Area TransporÂ tation Management Association (TMA). Also, Paratransit, Inc., under the name Innovative Paradigms, provides conÂ sulting services and travel training program management for other agencies to bring in additional revenue for the agency and the local program. Via Mobility and Ride Connection make substantial use of volunteers. Ride Connectionâs RideWise travel training proÂ gram uses 40 volunteers who contribute almost 1,300 hours a year leading group trips, coÂpresenting senior training, serving as transit advocates, or participating as work group members. Finding the Right Combination of Factors While all of the above elements are vital, real success depends upon the ability to put together a package that responds to the unique resources and challenges of each locality. Each of the case study sites developed their own combination for success, as shown in these examples. â¢ In Boulder, Via Mobility attributes the success of its proÂ grams to the following principles and attributes: personal qualities of the trainers; strong leadership; considering how travel training can succeed in light of local transportaÂ tion resources, local conditions, and individual needs and abilities; recognizing and appreciating volunteers; building and maintaining collaborative relationships; responsiveÂ ness to changing community needs and funding sources; and competencies in a full range of travel training services.
22 â¢ The RTA in Chicago believes that the following factors seem to be important: all but one of the travel trainers come from a social services backgroundâthe other trainer comes from a rehabilitation background; the RTA Board is supportive; the oneÂonÂone training is very intensive; and the work is done inÂhouse with RTA employees, which makes management of the program easier for them. â¢ The NJTIP program is successful, in part, because it demÂ onstrated that an existing program from The Kennedy Center, Inc. could be adapted for use by another jurisdicÂ tion. Also, NJTIPâs partnerships with NJ TRANSIT, the towns in the sevenÂcounty service area, and social services agencies that work with seniors are continuing to provide forums for NJTIP to provide travel training to seniors. While the change in management could have been a chalÂ lenge, the stability of Rutgers University as an operational base is thought by both NJTIP and the Voorhees Center to be an asset. â¢ Ride Connection believes that a key to the success of its RideWise travel training program is creating a core phiÂ losophy and delivering a clear and consistent message to all members of the community. The focus on individuals as customers is a key component of their practice of mobility management; this includes attention to the feelings of the customers and understanding each person, and his or her skill sets, other resources, and travel needs. A competent staff that excels in customer service is a key to program success, as is increasing the mobility of potential riders. There are substantial benefits of allowing older adults to age in place, and avoiding the costs of nursing homes is certainly a primary benefit. As noted earlier, RideWise has demonstrated to TriMet that its travel training program has saved money for TriMet and has slowed the growth of TriMetâs ADA services. TriMet has created spreadsheets to conduct detailed calculations about the benefits of the RideWise travel training program, and considers travel training to be highly cost effective. â¢ In Riverside, a key reason for success is strong organizaÂ tional support. RTA management started the travel trainÂ ing program slowly and took time to recruit and hire the right people: the hiring process was not focused on acaÂ demic qualifications but on personal qualities such as heart and compassion. The three travel trainers work very well as a team and meet regularly with ADA paratransit staff. â¢ Paratransit, Inc. has successfully operated the travel trainÂ ing program in Sacramento for the past 30 years. The travel training program has been able to demonstrate considerable cost savings over this time. The amount of money for travel training has varied from year to year, but Paratransitâs travel training program is designed to be scalable based on the funding that is available from year to year. â¢ TKC staff believe that one of the reasons they have been successful is that they have worked effectively with the many transit districts within the state, particularly those in the southwest part of Connecticut and the larger urban transit districts. TKCâs success is also demonstrated by the desire of other northeastern organizations to receive âtrain the trainerâ and senior travel training consulting serÂ vices. TKC provides customized consulting services to help other transit agencies get started and sells three resource guides that can be used by other entities to promote senior travel training.