Peer-to-peer ETS training suggested for vulnerable transit users

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Edmonton could see a peer-to-peer transit training program for vulnerable transit users after the Edmonton Transit Service Advisory Board (ETSAB) recommended it to urban planning committee councillors on Tuesday.

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ETSAB established a subcommittee in 2019 with the goal of helping Edmontonians overcome their fear of using ETS due to a lack of understanding.

The committee identified five groups of transit users to focus on — seniors, newcomers, post-secondary students, the Indigenous community and people who are visually impaired, said Lindsay Vanstone, chair of ETSAB, in chambers.

Vanstone said when she first moved to Edmonton it took her some time to feel comfortable using the transit system and she’s someone who is fluent in English with experience using transit in other cities.

“Knowing there are challenges for generally transit savvy people to get used to Edmonton’s system, the subcommittee wanted to look at what more vulnerable groups may struggle to use transit or who may be unintentionally prevented from using it,” said Vanstone during the urban planning committee meeting.

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The trainers in the peer-to-peer program would be people with similar backgrounds to the rider and Vanstone said ETSAB is recommending trainers and learners should not be charged transit fees while taking part in the program.

“We’d be able to have people who speak their own language, know their own culture, introducing these folks to the transit system,” said Charles Kelly, former ETSAB chair, during the meeting. “There are many of these organizations, who again, would be willing to get involved with a situation like this.”

The Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers, Catholic Social Services, ASSIST Community Services Centre and Action for Healthy Communities are among the groups that have expressed interest in assisting with the proposed training service.

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Kelly said the idea for the peer-to-peer training came from a similar program being run in Regina, Sask. The Regina program is controlled through a not-for-profit third party and pairs disabled individuals with a trainer with a similar disability. The program continues until the rider feels comfortable enough to travel on their own.

Vanstone said once the program is established it can be expanded to serve more groups in the community.

Edmonton Transit Service branch manager Carrie Hotton-MacDonald told council ETS will take all of the recommendations and review it along with other work in progress.

ktaniguchi@postmedia.com

twitter.com/kellentaniguchi

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