Hopelink Travel Program Helps Take the Fear Out of Public Transit

It's tricky to learn how to find bus stops, where to get on and off of buses, and how to ask for help when you don't speak English. For some, it's downright scary.

Hopelink Travel Programs offer Mobilize! Public Transit Orientation trips, designed to take the fear out of public transit and to give new riders more confidence when braving the bus. The program coordinates with agencies that work with clients who are immigrants, refugees, veterans and residents with Limited English Proficiency, as well as low-income individuals who do not qualify for other transit-instruction programs in the area.

Travel Programs staff, interpreters, and volunteers accompany groups of clients on guided public transit excursions. These bus trips focus on teaching "wayfinding" techniques, trip planning tips, and pedestrian safety. Bus routes are chosen carefully so that the groups of clients can practice a route that they will want to take again in the future. ORCA cards pre-loaded with $10 are provided to each participant.

World Relief clients (not the family in this story) learned how to use an ORCA card during a recent Mobilize! bus travel orientation.

Recently, a family of three from Ethiopia and Eritrea completed a Mobilize! trip with Hopelink's Travel Programs. They came as refugees to the U.S. last year and moved to Bothell in June 2014. Practicing the route from Bothell to Kirkland helped ensure that the family had the confidence to board the correct bus, take the safest pedestrian walking route, and make it to their Energy Assistance appointment at Kirkland/Northshore Hopelink on time. Following that appointment, they caught another bus and visited the DSHS office the same day.

In addition to Mobilize!, Hopelink offers two other travel programs that increase independence and mobility:

  • Travel Ambassadors—Social services agencies and community organizations can receive free travel training and resources so that employees can encourage clients to build independence and mobility. For information about Travel Ambassadors, call 425-943-6760 or e-mail mobility@hope-link.org.
  • Getting Around Puget Sound (GAPS)—GAPS volunteer travel trainers staff information tables at public events and connect King County residents with information about travel options. Want to be a GAPS volunteer? E-mail mobility@hope-link.org for more information.

Contributor Moira Ohl manages travel programs at Hopelink. A recent article in King County RSVP's Experience in Action described Moira as "delightful, professional and energetic." For more information about Hopelink travel programs, Moira can be reached at 425-943-6760 or mohl@hope-link.org.