Tag Archives: omnitrans bus rider

They call me the Bus Man

San Bernardino resident Jerry Silva has been riding Omnitrans since 1981. “They call me the Bus Man,” he grins. “I ride around ten buses a day, sometimes just to sight-see and get out of the house. I ride for the joy of it.”

Jerry also likes riding the bus to the movies or to hang out with his best friend in Fontana who he’s known since 1976. They are both Dodger fans who met in kindergarten and connected over their love of baseball. Forty-two years later, their friendship is still going strong and they go out of their way to spend time together.

Jerry has ridden the bus for so long that he knows all the routes, most of the drivers and even the Omnitrans receptionists who sell him his bus passes.

Jerry Silva and Omnitrans receptionist

“Everybody’s so kind and courteous,” he says. “I’ve known driver Daniel Hernandez over two years now. He’s really friendly and has a great attitude towards passengers. He gets the job done. He makes sure everyone has the right fare, has a bus book and so forth. Charlene is very nice too. I’ve had a good experience with all the drivers.”

Jerry Silva catching an Omnitrans busFor Jerry, the bus is more than just a means of transport. It is a way to stay connected with his community. Having struggled with depression for most of his life, he has found the best medicine is reaching out to make a difference to others.

“I like to help people get to where they’re going, especially the senior citizens,” says Jerry. “If they don’t know which bus to take, I explain it to them and let them know what it will cost and so forth. It’s all about kindness, making people feel better when they’re down and out, looking for opportunities to do nice things. I am always positive. I don’t believe in the negative. I always tell people that negative attitudes lead to bad experiences. If you just move forward, then you have a future. Today is a beautiful day. Who knows what tomorrow may hold for us? “

Jerry R Silva on an Omnitrans bus

– Juno Kughler Carlson

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Blind senior enjoys new adventures thru public transit

“I like challenging myself,” smiles Sandy Leonard.

The outgoing 60-year-old Yucaipa resident has spent a lifetime beating the odds. Now she relies on Omnitrans to give her the independence to pursue new adventures.

Twenty years ago, Sandy began suffering from severe headaches and vision problems.  She was diagnosed with a meningioma brain tumor which was putting pressure on the optic nerves.  Although benign, the melon-sized tumor was so large the doctors told her she had only a 30% chance to survive the needed surgery.

The operation took over 18 hours to perform, but Sandy made it through. However the damage was permanent–she was left legally blind.  Tunnel vision in her left eye allows her to see somewhat at a distance, but she lacks depth perception or peripheral vision. Her close up vision is almost nonexistent.

Sandy’s life changed radically.  Although at first resistant to the idea, she enrolled in the Braille Institute to learn how to adapt to her new circumstances.

“I learned how to live with the partial-sightedness that I do have. If I never went there, I think I would probably still be sitting at home,” says Sandy frankly. “I basically had to re-learn how to get around with my vision. They taught me measurement techniques I could use for cooking and how to fold money so you can tell the difference between the denominations. I also worked with a mobility instructor to learn how to do things around the house, cross streets, and use public transportation. Because I had partial sight, she would sometimes blindfold me to make it harder and force me to rely on touch and sound.”

Sandy began riding Omnitrans in 2005 when she moved to Yucaipa to be closer to her sister. She primarily relies on OmniLink and OmniGo to get around town, but occasionally uses the Access and fixed route buses as well. She likes the friendliness of the drivers and feels safe traveling in the area.

I even take my 6-year-old granddaughter on the bus when she comes to visit,” says Sandy. “She loves it, and the drivers all make a fuss over her.”

Sandy sometimes jokes that she uses special braille balls to call Bingo. In reality she relies on very bright light to see the large ball numbers.

Now that she’s an old hand at public transit, she puts that experience to work helping friends and her neighbors at Patrician Mobile Home Park. She shows them how to complete the forms required for Access service and assists them with bus route information. She takes their photo and gets it developed at Walgreens  so they don’t have to buy a passport photo for their ID card. She wants them to have the same freedom and independence she’s enjoyed over the years.

Omnitrans and other transit agencies have been vital in helping Sandy maintain an active lifestyle so she can enjoy the things she loves best.

She volunteers at the Calimesa and Yucaipa Senior Centers as a Bingo caller, she enjoys line dancing at the Branding Iron, and she belongs to the Diamond Club in LA where she gets together with other visually impaired friends for day trips. Once a year she attends Camp Bloomfield, a camp for people who are blind, visually impaired or multi-disabled. There she hikes, swims, does archery, horseback riding, tandem biking and more. Two years ago she climbed her first rock wall at the camp at age 58. She proudly made it to the top, happy despite exhaustion, shakiness and aching muscles.

“I enjoy challenges. I guess my proudest accomplishment is just being alive and independent,” says Sandy frankly. “I’m thankful to be able to get around to do the things I want to do and live the kind of life I want to live.”

– Juno Kughler Carlson

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My public transit journey: bus rider to travel trainer

A guest post by VTrans travel trainer Marcus Garcia

Marcus Garcia shows a VTrans client how to find schedule information using a bus book

What did you do to learn how to ride the bus?

Now having multiple years of riding experience under my belt, I am always interested in the responses from other Omnitrans riders who I have been able to get to know. Some were fortunate in that they were able to learn how to ride the bus from family members or close friends, while others transitioned at their own pace from other transportation modes like walking, biking, or driving. And the final group, which includes myself, seemed to have suddenly found themselves in need of transportation, and without driving as an option, had to quickly switch to using public transit as their new way of getting around town.

My journey with public transit began in 2011, where the engine of my 1997 Nissan Sentra finally quit on me, and the repair cost more than the worth of the car. At the time I was both working and living with family in the same Orange County city, so it wasn’t too difficult to get to work without a car. My problem was that although I was alright in terms of transportation to work, I preferred getting out and about over spending days off from work sitting inside the house. It just took four days after the failure of my Sentra’s engine for me to board an OCTA (Orange County Transportation Authority) bus for the first time.

The only knowledge which was of any help when it came to learning the bus schedules was the fact that I knew most of the major streets in the county, and that I knew where north, south, east, and west were. Through investigating the bus book, as well as some trial-and-error trips (with plenty of errors), I was slowly able to memorize the different OCTA routes. By the end of summer 2011, the longest single day trip I took using fixed-route OCTA buses came out to a total of 120 bus miles.

Even after getting another car and moving back to the Inland Empire, my interest in taking advantage of public transit continued, and hence began my travels with Omnitrans. The price of gas was fluctuating wildly at the time, and the maintenance costs for my car began, with a few hundred dollars here and another major repair there. Unlike driving, all that was required was a flat rate 31-day pass and I would be able to have unlimited rides throughout the entire Omnitrans system. Just as I had done in Orange County, I spent a number of days riding throughout the valley in order to learn all of the Omnitrans routes. Participating in the GoSmart College ID pilot program while attending Chaffey College further prompted my interest in using public transit as much as possible, as I no longer even had to worry about purchasing a 31-day pass. It was not unusual for my monthly ridership to total between 1,000 and 1,500 miles, as I lived in Chino Hills and traveled to Rancho Cucamonga at least five days per week.

When I had mastered the Omnitrans system and developed a full appreciation for the benefits of public transit, I began looking for ways to discuss public transit and related issues with other riders and enthusiasts. This is what initially motivated me to join the conversations on the Omnitrans Facebook page, as well as the Facebook pages of the other major transit agencies in Southern California. Submitting comments, driver compliments, and route suggestions through the online contact form was how I provided input to Omnitrans about my experiences as a regular rider of their system.

VTrans helps seniors and those with disabilities learn bus riding basics through personal hands-on training.

In April of this year, I took my interest in promoting the benefits of public transit to the next level, and became a Travel Trainer with Valley Transportation Services (VTrans). VTrans is one of Omnitrans’ partner agencies that works to coordinate transportation options for various target populations, such as seniors and people with disabilities. The VTrans Travel Training program seeks to open the door for greater independence and freedom to these two groups by teaching them how to ride Omnitrans fixed-route buses independently. For participants that have never ridden the bus before, trainers cover all of the basics like paying fare, etiquette while onboard, using the bus book, interacting with coach operators, and getting directions or other information using the Omnitrans website or customer service hotline. Trainers can also help people who have some experience already by helping them learn unfamiliar routes or with complex tasks like planning a trip with multiple transfers or over a long distance.

One of the most common concerns which I have come across as a Trainer is that participants have feared trying to use the bus in the past because they are too overwhelmed by the maps and timetables, and worried about getting lost at transit centers. Because I had to learn how to navigate through OCTA and Omnitrans transit centers all on my own, I can understand the frustration that these participants might feel. Travel Trainers are able to break down the process of concepts like transit centers to make them easier for participants to navigate. I have also been able to come up with creative solutions to assist clients with difficulty remembering information or even reading and writing, so that they too could be successful new riders.

It is a great privilege to be part of the VTrans Travel Training Team, and to be able to impact the lives of others through a transportation mode which has been so beneficial for myself. It is amazing to see how young adults around my age are thriving with a new sense of freedom, as upon completion of training they are able for the first time to visit their friends, go shopping, or catch a movie completely on their own. Senior participants who may not be able drive themselves any longer are embracing Omnitrans service as a path to visiting friends, family, and continuing to engage in the activities they love. Omnitrans fixed route service has the potential to improve the lives of many in the San Bernardino Valley, and I am glad to be able to lead participants to that door of opportunity.

– Marcus Garcia

To find out more about the VTrans Travel Training program or to sign up, please call the VTrans Main Office at 909-981-5099 during normal business hours. There is absolutely no cost to those who participate in the training program. 

Marcus served as a judge at the Omnitrans 2013 Bus Roadeo, a skills-based coach operator competition – photo by Janice Kuhn

Bus helps student cope with the unexpected

Omnitrans rider Reginald Reid relies on Go Smart and NexTrip to help with his commute between Pasadena and San Bernardino.

Life doesn’t always go as planned. And when the unexpected happens, public transit often plays an important role in helping people recover, move forward and pursue their dreams.

For the past four years, Reginald Reid has been a regular Omnitrans rider. He enjoys all kinds of sports, loves to cook, read, sing and play music. A student at both San Bernardino Valley College and Cal State San Bernardino, he studies electrical engineering and water technology.

Recently he faced an unexpected crisis when he lost his job and could no longer afford his apartment. He was left with little option but to move in with his parents in Pasadena. “It’s tough on my folks,” he says. “I do everything I can for them in terms of odd jobs and home repairs, but times are definitely hard. I’m graduating this fall and am completely focused on finishing up my classes and looking for job opportunities. At this point I’m willing to do just about anything to bring in an income.”

Each morning Reginald boards the bus at 3:00 a.m. in Pasadena for the first leg of his trip into San Bernardino. There is little room in his schedule for sleep these days, and he maximizes his time by doing as much studying as he can on the bus. “I’m dead tired,” he admits. “But I’m almost there. My motivation is knowing that it’s all for just for a little while longer. This hasn’t broken me, it’s just made me stronger.”

Because Reginald transfers buses between different systems, timing is critical for him. When Omnitrans rolled out its NexTrip Program technology at the end of January he was an early adopter. “It’s great having real time information on bus arrivals. It’s important to me because it affects each sequential transfer I have to take. It can be very tricky traveling between agencies. I always have to be very aware of when service ends so I don’t get stuck. With NexTrip I feel more secure because I know exactly when the bus will get to my stop.  Once I even got an alert on my phone that my bus was rerouted due to construction and that I needed to go to an alternate stop. It makes planning everything so much easier.”

Reginald says he doesn’t know what he would do without public transit, which makes it possible for him to finish his education and get on his feet again. He’s determined to make it all work. “I have a new sense of purpose.  If one door doesn’t open, I’ll just try another. I try to stay positive.”

-Juno Kughler Carlson

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Reading, riding & reaching out to others

“Omnitrans is the center of my universe,” says Liz Neal. The 46-year-old San Bernardino retiree has a history of seizures which prevents her from driving. But she doesn’t let that hold her back from enjoying the things she loves. She relies on Routes 2, 5 and 15 to get her where she needs to go.

An active member of her church, Ecclesia Christian Fellowship, Liz’s days are filled with Praise Dance practice, choir rehearsals, Bible study, community service and spiritual counseling.  She hopes to one day return to Bible College to obtain a ministry degree. Liz is also an avid reader, preferring true crime, biographies and computer books, and is a frequent visitor at the local library. She always has a book on her, and finds the 45 minute commute between home and church to be a great time to relax and read.

“I like that the buses are neat and clean–and air conditioned. Always great on those hot days!  I know I can get where I need to go on time, and the bus drivers are all very nice. Whenever I’ve had questions or needed directions, they’ve always been very helpful and informative.”

Because she rides every day, Liz purchases 31-Day disability bus passes in order to save more money. And she’s a huge fan of the new NexTrip bus arrival prediction technology.

“It’s been heaven. Whoever came up with that–I just want to hug them!” she laughs. “I trust it and love it and can’t imagine life without it now. Before I used to have to phone the call center every day or check the bus book to get information to plan my trip.  Now I have the NexTrip app downloaded to my smartphone, and it’s always right on the money. If it says the bus is arriving now, I can look up and actually see it coming down the street!”

Liz says NexTrip also gives her the opportunity to talk to people and help them. “It never fails. Whenever I’m at a bus stop, someone always comes along to ask how long I’ve been waiting and do I know when the next bus is coming.  I just pull out my phone and show them. It’s so much easier than looking at the map at the bus stop or at the bus book. It’s that important.”

–Juno Kughler Carlson

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Early Adopter, Now A NexTrip Advocate

When NexTrip was launched at the end of January, Catherine was one of the first ones to take advantage of the new technology. She was an instant fan.

“I know when the bus is actually coming without needing to memorize a schedule. No longer do I wonder if I’ll miss my bus if I use the restroom.  I can set alerts on my phone for the bus near my home and stay in my air conditioning until the last minute instead of baking in the summer heat.”

Since then, she’s passed the experience on to many of her fellow riders. “Every chance I get, I help others learn about NexTrip, often breaking the ice by telling them exactly how many minutes until their bus arrives. Once, to test its accuracy, I set an alert for 1 minute. The bus arrived about a minute after the alert came to my phone. In a nutshell, I never worry about when the bus will show up as long as I have my cell. I KNOW! Thanks for implementing NexTrip.”

Although she has had a driver’s license since she was 18, Catherine has never owned or had regular access to a car, and taxicabs just aren’t cost-effective for her budget. “If Omnitrans was not an effective tool for transportation for all my non-emergency needs, I would have moved somewhere with better public transit years ago,” she says frankly.

As a regular rider, Catherine hopes to eventually see Omnitrans offer extended weekend coverage. As a Colton resident, it would allow her the freedom to enjoy more events and attend late evening services at her church of choice in Redlands. In the meantime, she is enjoying her new found flexibility with our NexTrip real-time bus prediction system.

–Juno Kughler Carlson

Try NexTrip for yourself.
Get real time arrival information via text message, online or by phone!

Do you like this story and want to use it for your blog or newsletter? All our stories may be freely reposted and shared with others!

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Email juno.carlson@omnitrans.org

From jungle to city, Omnitrans rider loves to travel

Omnitrans customer Jennie Aceves loves to travel, from daily trips around the city to exploring the world. Her favorite experience was a trip to Guatemala where she worked for a time as a missionary.

“I loved being able to hike through the jungle and swim in the lake with the fish,” said Jenny. “It was beautiful, and I liked the feeling of making a difference. I was in charge of the youth group and some of the elderly there and it was my job to make sure they were all served hot meals each day. Being in that environment makes you appreciate what you have, and I feel very blessed with the life I’ve been given.”

When her car broke down two years ago, Jennie decided it was just too expensive to buy and maintain another vehicle. She was comfortable with public transit and had been riding Omnitrans off and on since she was in high school simply because it was so convenient. Making the switch to being a full-time rider seemed the obvious choice. She would still be able to easily get to all her normal destinations and for much less than it used to cost her in gas!

“My favorite thing about Omnitrans is how easy it is to transfer. I almost never have to wait long between buses because of the way the schedules are set up. I can usually get to wherever destination I need within a half hour to an hour total travel time. It’s convenient for me.”

This week Jennie was one of the first passengers to ride one of the twenty new Xcelsior model buses that Omnitrans has added to its fleet. She was impressed. “The new bus was really nice,” said Jennie. “It felt very spacious and comfortable. And I like that Omnitrans is keeping up with the times to provide good, efficient transportation that is also healthy for the environment.”

Do you like this story and want to use it for your blog or newsletter? All our stories may be freely re-posted and shared with others!

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Email juno.carlson@omnitrans.org