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P6110210.JPGIntroducing students to the awesomeness of bus travel. (Photo: Santa Rosa CityBus)

I started riding the public bus to get to school in New York City when I was about nine or ten years old. It was a trip that took half an hour or so each way, including a walk of several blocks from the bus stop to the school door.

Even though I had been riding the bus with my parents since I was very little, I can still remember the nervousness I felt about making the trip on my own for the first time. Would I recognize my stop in time? Would I be able to pull the signal cord to get the driver's attention? What if I went too far?

I can also remember the sense of pride and freedom I felt when the trip went smoothly. And my excitement at the realization that I could take the bus not just to school, but to a friend's house, or to the bookstore I loved way downtown. My world had opened up, all because of a bus system.

So a recent post from Streetsblog Network member blog Santa Rosa CityBus about kids learning to ride the bus caught my eye. This California city has a program to educate groups in the ways of the bus system:

Santa Rosa CityBus offers FREE travel training classes for groups who want to have someone help them learn our transit system in "real time". This service is generally used by seniors, students and those who have mobility challenges.

Santa Rosa CityBus was contacted by teachers from both Santa Rosa High School and Slater Middle School who wanted their students to learn how to use public transit. Both instructors realize that knowing how to read and understand the system route map and time schedule is a very valuable life skill and more than worth taking the time to learn.

So last week, 39 Santa Rosa students and 8 school staff members were treated to a comprehensive, hands-on training program. CityBus staff met the students at their schools and started the training by providing a general introduction to Santa Rosa CityBus, including helpful information on fares, bus tickets, monthly passes and transfers... Feedback from students is always very positive. They really enjoy the class and, as a result, feel confident to use Santa Rosa CityBus to travel around town.

In a way, it strikes me as too bad that the kids can't learn how to use the bus from parents and other family members, the way that I did. But the reality of many American cities is that no one in the family uses anything but a car for transportation. I have plenty of grown-up friends from other parts of the country who are intimidated by using public transit in their own cities or any other. So I think it's great that Santa Rosa is doing something to change that -- to show kids that independence and connection to a larger world don't have to depend on a personal motor vehicle.

More from around the network: Discovering Urbanism on learning from the early family-friendly suburbs. The Transport Politic on how to make transit commuting more interesting. And Newton Streets and Sidewalks on ticketing bicyclists who break the law.

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