Mike Davis is the Director of Star Tran here in Lincoln. I contacted him back in March and told him about this idea, and he has bent over backwards to do whatever he can to make this experience as full - and painless - as possible. In fact, our conversation has since spilled over into some pretty cool potential Star Tran-NTC conversations in the future as we continue to develop our Community Navigation curriculum.
Today, Mike and Colin Clark (Field Supervisor) spent some time talking about the training the drivers must complete prior to being handed the keys to a bus and a route. I really had no idea the extent of the training . . . classroom, simulator training (which was REALLY cool – although I had to wear a little bracelet to prevent overwhelming vertigo), route driving, etc. All said and done, up to eight weeks of training. Of course we aren’t just talking driving training – conflict resolution, first aid, etc. In short, the drivers are highly trained, and AWESOME!
Today, we had several goals:
Get a bus pass (several options, all VERY inexpensive)
Understand how to board the bus, what to say, questions to ask, and when to notify when I wanted to disembark.
Plan some routes that would involve transfers (from one bus line to another)
We started at 10:30 this morning with some simulator training and route planning in the office. We also spent some time looking at the different apps available to help plan and navigate the routes throughout the city (they are pretty cool, and incredibly accurate). Of course, regardless of the coolness rating of the app, we also had to spend some time reading actual paper maps . . . in case the app is not working. Then, we were off.
It didn’t take long to make a few discoveries. First, I am ALWAYS looking at the time. Like, just shy of obsessive. Double checking, triple checking, making sure I am mindful of the arrival, departure, and connection of transfers. And even when I am certain I am at the correct bus stop, I find myself obsessively watching for the bus – even when the app tells me that it is still ten minutes away. I suppose this comes from being in the military for 31 years; I HATE being late or having “squishy” arrival times. Looking like I will get to know that side of myself over the next 30 days . . .
Second, the “regulars” picked me out almost immediately. But this was a very good thing. They didn’t hesitate to put us at ease, for instance, when we revealed aloud that we had missed a connection. “Don’t worry, this route runs a lot more frequently than the others – another one will be here in 15 minutes.” Of course, Mike knew this, but he and I both thanked this kind young man for his assistance and grace.
Last, the bus route arrival and departure times are freaky-accurate, which amazes me when you think of all the variables associated with navigating a city. This gives me a lot of confidence as I think about planning my appointments throughout the month – as long as those appointments are within the parameters of the bus schedule, of course . . . .