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CORRECTED: Ambassadors driven to spread goodwill

Notes that Dial-a-Ride service is $2 each direction

Posted: September 3, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: September 3, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Frank Ford, left, and Rita Hendrixson arrive at the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center in Newhall via a city of Santa Clarita Transit bus in August. Both regularly use the public transportation system to get to and from the senior center. Frank Ford, left, and Rita Hendrixson arrive at the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center in Newhall via a city of Santa Clarita Transit bus in August. Both regularly use the public transportation system to get to and from the senior center.
Frank Ford, left, and Rita Hendrixson arrive at the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center in Newhall via a city of Santa Clarita Transit bus in August. Both regularly use the public transportation system to get to and from the senior center.
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Seniors are using Santa Clarita Transit more than ever before, thanks at least in part to the Senior Transit Ambassador program.

The city and the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center joined together to launch the program in the spring, starting with 12 seniors.

Since the ambassador program began in April, senior bus use has risen 18 percent, according to city transit officials.

Comprised of 12 seniors who were trained how to read bus schedules, routes and bus stop locations, the program assists other seniors in using the bus system, which is free to people ages 60 and older.

Anne Whalley was one of the first to participate.

“I’m tired of driving,” Whalley said. “I don’t like the traffic anymore. It’s so great to be in a bus and not have to think about the traffic.”

Whalley said she was grateful for her ambassadors, Armida and Robert Brooks, for showing her the ropes.

“They stood at the bus stop with me, took the bus with me, walked to the Senior Center with me,” the Santa Clarita resident said. “Then we came back together. It was very nice.”

Armida Brooks said Whalley “just loves taking the bus now.”

Brooks said she heard about the program and thought it sounded fun. And, being Friendly Valley residents, she and her husband had access to a lot of seniors they could teach about the transit system.

“It’s nice for medical appointments, to go to the farmers market,” Brooks said. “We teach them the route to take, and they can always call us if they have questions.”


Aguilar said demand was increasing dramatically for the transit system’s Dial-A-Ride program, which provides door-to-door service to seniors or the disabled.

“What we were seeing was seniors more comfortable using the Dial-A-Ride Service,” Aguilar said. “We had 20-percent increases each month. It’s hard to sustain at that level.”

So transit managers focused on able-bodied seniors who could use the regular, routed bus service instead. The Dial-A-Ride service requires 24-hour advance registration and costs $2 each direction. A ride on the routed buses is free for seniors over age 60 with proof of age.


It’s not just ambassadors spreading the word, either.

Rita Hendrixson started taking the bus about a year ago after her husband died. Hendrixson’s daughter suggested she take the bus instead of trying to learn again how to drive.

“The bus is important to me,” she said. “I sold my car, so that’s my transportation. I walk a mile to (my stop), and that’s my morning exercise.”

Hendrixson coaxed her Senior Center friend Richard Hitchcock into taking the bus shortly after, when he wouldn’t stop complaining about high gas prices.

“I enjoy it, and it’s saved me a tremendous amount of money,” Hitchcock said, adding that he’s reconnected with his Saugus neighborhood since starting. “When you drive, you have tunnel vision. There were so many things I was missing,” he said.

The first batch of ambassadors celebrated their training with a field trip Aug. 13 to Santa Monica. The ambassadors plan to host a field trip every month, Aguilar said.

For details on the Senior Transit Ambassador Program, call Santa Clarita administrative analyst Patrick Bryant with the city’s Transit Division at (661) 295-6304 or visit SantaClaritaTransit.com. General information on Santa Clarita Transit services can be found at 294-1287.

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