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Travel training connects riders to community2 min read

Mar 31, 2022 2 min

Travel training connects riders to community2 min read

Reading Time: 2 minutes

David Steffler describes one of his clients as inspirational.

“I thought, I want to be just like her when I’m older,” he said.

The Grand River Transit (GRT) Eligibility and Training Specialist remembers 88-year-old Helen who is legally blind, as full of life. “She is a real go-getter, part of a kayaking club and she wanted to remain independent and learn about getting around her community on transit. That is why we are here, to teach people… and often times they provide a lesson for us as well.”

GRT’s travel training program teaches community members how to use transit.

“Sometimes a person is new to the region and wants help learning how to get to a health care centre or to the grocery store,” said Rachel Micallef, Eligibility and Training Specialist with GRT. “We will meet them, help them plan their routes, and even ride the bus or train with them.”

Travelling on transit can often feel intimidating when you are a new person in a new place, and that fear is amplified if language is also a barrier.

“Our relationship with GRT is so essential to helping newcomers in the region feel comfortable taking transit,” said Craig Baila, Case Manager with Reception House Waterloo Region. “It can be very daunting to step on a bus and travel to a new place you have never seen or been to before.”

Reception House Waterloo Region is a community-based organization that helps government-assisted refugees connect with a variety of programs and services in the community, including transit.

“What our clients really get from this program is confidence,” said Craig. “I remember one client… she didn’t speak English and was afraid of getting lost. One day, after her experience in the program, she took a trip intending to go to the grocery store, but found herself at the mall. Instead of panicking when faced with her fear, she remembered her travel training and was able to navigate her way back.”

GRT’s program is free and designed for anyone looking to travel confidently and independently on any GRT service including MobilityPLUS and ION light rail.

“It’s about building that connection to community and creating a social network that means the most,” said Craig. “It’s not just our clients that are helped by travel training, our staff also learn a lot. They get the tools they need to provide the best service possible. Without our contacts at GRT we would be unaware of many of the new services that benefit our clients. My fear is that without the extra help many people would just stay home.”

Rachel says they meet so many great people through their work from all areas of the region.

“I honestly feel lucky to do the job I do, and knowing we are making a difference in people’s lives is incredibly rewarding.”

To learn more about travel training, visit