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July 13, 2010
Taking the bus can open new possibilities, offering a safe and convenient way to go shopping, visit friends, or travel to a medical appointment. For first-time riders, however, the idea may seem daunting. Simple preparation will go a long way toward easing that fear.
Planning your trip
Once you know your destination, a good first step is to call your local transit agency. Staff members can help you determine the appropriate bus route and supply printed maps and schedules. This information is also often available online or at your local library.
It's important to know the correct fare, as you will most likely need exact change. Discounts are generally available for older people.
Traveling with a friend or family member also can help you overcome any anxiety on your first trip.
While many areas offer a wide variety of bus routes with frequent service, you may find that a carpool or vanpool is more suitable. Your local transit agency may coordinate such arrangements or offer referrals.
Click on "Planning Your Trip" the video player above to watch how easy it can be. And welcome aboard.
Taking your trip
Now that you know how to plan your trip, it's time to get on the bus. Familiarizing yourself with the basic procedures will help make your ride easy and enjoyable.
After finding the most convenient stop or shelter, try to arrive early in case the bus is ahead of schedule. Make yourself visible as the bus arrives. Pay attention to the route number and final destination displayed on the bus, as several routes may travel the same street.
Especially if you're a new rider, don't hesitate to tell the driver where you're going. If you sit near the front, the driver can alert you as your stop approaches. Otherwise, you can look for landmarks or listen as stops are announced. Buses have buttons or cords to signal the driver.
Because you already know your fare, you'll be prepared with exact change. Some systems also offer passes, often at a discount.
To accommodate older passengers or those with disabilities, some buses can lower the front door to the curb or employ a fold-out ramp. Remember, the driver is there to serve you.
Click on "Taking Your Trip" in the video player above to see what the experience might be like.
Beyond the basics, local transit agencies offer a variety of programs to encourage bus travel, orient new riders, and serve passengers with special needs.
Want to travel part of your route by bicycle? Some buses have special racks for bikes. Looking for a way to save on commuting costs? Many employers subsidize public transportation for their workers.
Is the notion of bus travel still something of a mystery? Your local transit authority might offer a free training session that explains how to read a schedule and other basic procedures.
For people unable to use regular vehicles or bus services because of disability, paratransit is an option. Your local agency can provide details about what services are available and how to qualify.
And keep in mind that riding the bus needn't be a one-way street. Your comments and suggestions can help your local transit agency to improve its services.
Bus travel is a safe, reliable, and inexpensive route to transportation independence. If you haven't been on a bus since the big yellow one took you to school, now may be the time.
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