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Transit People Posts Guide on Hosting “Free Transit” Field Trips

9:49 AM PST on December 14, 2010

Clap hands at the start of the #14 line while waiting for the bus to start.  Photo (and caption) by Tim Adams/Transit People

At first glance, who wouldn't favor using Metro to provide free transit passes for off-peak field trips. It seems like a no-brainer.  But, Transit People, a local non-profit that has been helping teachers program these trips for years has been trying to warn Metro and Mayor Villaraigosa that there are a lot of potential pitfalls for such a program.  Thus far, both the Mayor's office and Metro have tried very hard not to hear Transit People's warnings, but the non-profit soldiers on.  The Metro Board voted to move forward with the program, before seeing what standards are put in place, last Thursday.

In addition to trying to figure out how Transit People fits into this new world -- the group compared itself to a mom and pop hardware store that just got notice that a Home Depot is going up across the streets -- Transit People is also putting a lot of their information online and trying to get the attention of decision makers before the free transit pass program goes live.  Yesterday Transit People posted both their training manual for teachers, every teacher that takes children on a Transit People trip goes through a rigorous training program, and a six page guide on how to manage a field trip on transit (as opposed to school buses.)

For example, Transit People warns that there are some classes which shouldn't be taking transit on field trips, free or not.  Usually, a class' ability to handle such a trip depends on the teacher, but the class could itself could be the barrier.  Here are some situations that should be avoided.

    • Inexperienced or challenged teachers struggling with classroom management issues.
    • Experienced teachers working with particularly difficult classes.
    • Experienced teachers who can safely manage children, but won’t ...
    • [Teachers] who will ‘let them run wild’ unless an administrator is watching.

This could raise an interesting problem for Metro: Who at the agency is going to check on teachers and classrooms to make certain that the class is a good fit for a field trip?  And how is the agency going to break it to someone that their class is just too unruly?

As for the guide for teachers, I find the a section towards the end on training teachers and leaders on how to deal with some of the "characters" you might run into on transit to be the most helpful.  Most of Transit People's students have been younger, so they've avoided any problems with gang members and (thankfully) predators.  But how will Metro prepare its teachers for a situation where high school students are approached or harassed by gang members?  How about a harmless, but flamboyant, mentally ill passenger and a group of younger students?

Now we haven't seen the final program, or the details, of Metro's free transit for field trips.  If done correctly, it will be a milestone moment for the agency.  But if they don't, it could be a catastrophe.  One way to maximize their chances for success would be talking to local experts.  In this case, the experts are anxiously awaiting for some sign that Metro is willing to listen.

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