Earlier this month, Mayor Villaraigosa, who also serves on the Metro Board of Directors, proposed that the transit agency give free Metro passes to classrooms for field trips during off-peak hours. The proposal appears to be a win-win, as students in the “cash-strapped” LAUSD get a chance to travel to some of the many fun and educational places in Los Angeles and get a chance to do so via public transit.
However, Los Angeles happens to be home to experts in taking students on these types of field trips. Transit People is a local non-profit that has raised the funds for dozens of these sort of trips every year. While nobody in government has reached out to Transit People about this proposal; their Board of Directors, Tim Adams, Denisse Castillo, Nelly Caywood and Perias Pillay, is offering some free advice to Villaraigosa and Metro to make sure that any field trips that utilize Metro are safe and fun for the participants.
Mayor Villaraigosa’s proposal could provide tremendous benefit to Los Angeles’ kids, if implemented properly. You could be heroes — heroes! — to the children of our county, and could set an important precedent for other transit agencies nationwide. But if this proposal isn’t properly implemented, our ten years of experience strongly suggest that this nobly-intended program will not turn out well. No one at TransitPeople has ever proposed a ‘carte blanche’ program of this type.
With promises of a more detailed list of suggestions later, Transit People write of some of the hard lessons they learned over the past decade and have the following suggestions:
- Not all teachers are ready to lead these trips. Have some sort of evaluation and training program in place before handing out transit passes.
- Limit the size of the trips, especially for younger classes, to twenty or twenty four students. Larger groups are harder to handle and will (innocently) harass the other transit users. If you’re using rail, you can split larger groups up to ride in multiple cars.
- Teachers should not take these trips without other adults present to help out.
- Reaching out to the Sheriff’s (LASD) who police Metro stations, buses and trains before hand can be helpful.
Speaking of Transit People, in 2008 I recommended that making a donation to this group in lieu of a Holiday Gift would be a great way to help a local group and show a special someone how much you care about giving great experiences to our local students. Even though there’s now a mechanism to give to Streetsblog, I see no reason not to make that same recommendation again. You can donate to the group directly through PayPal, at this link.