Confused about the bus? Ask a Transit Ambassador

Volunteers answer questions about fares, routes
By: Sena Christian, Staff Reporter
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You have your usual way of getting to work each morning: You jump into your car, start the engine, turn up the radio and head on your way. This time of year, you probably defrost the windows.

But today there’s a problem: Your car won’t start.

Don’t panic. Roseville Transit provides local, commuter and Dial-a-Ride services to get you where you need to be. The services connect to other providers throughout Placer County. And if you’ve never ridden the bus before, that’s still no cause to fret. Transit Ambassadors of South Placer County can answer your questions and provide the assurance needed to make your bus trip a positive one.

Transit Ambassadors are unpaid volunteers who undergo training — about the bus services and routes — to assist people unfamiliar with public transportation. Even people who ride the bus regularly may sometimes need a specific question answered.

The city of Roseville’s Transit Ambassador Technician, Jennie Gandler, built the program from the ground up seven years ago. She said simple things, such as knowing where the closest bus stop is to your house or how much the fare costs, can deter people from using public transportation.

“People will open a bus schedule guide and ask, ‘How do I use this?’” Gandler said.

Transit Ambassadors help clarify the process. Wearing identification that makes them easily identifiable, the volunteers either ride the bus or hang out at transit transfer stations, such as the one at Westfield Galleria, which is a transfer spot for Roseville and Placer transits.

Volunteer Tim Eldred has ridden the bus most of his life, starting during his childhood in Long Beach and continuing through adulthood. He rode the commuter bus for many years from Roseville to his state job in downtown Sacramento.

“I’m a bus fan,” he said.

Eldred’s wife used to work for the city of Roseville’s alternative transportation division, so when he retired, he decided to volunteer as an ambassador. Gandler said the program attracts mainly retirees and college students. There are currently nine volunteers.

“I enjoy giving back to the community, I enjoy meeting new people and I enjoy talking to them about saving money and the environment,” Eldred said.

Volunteers agree to commit five hours a month, and the shifts are flexible to accommodate their schedules: The goal is to make volunteering a positive experience.

“It seems to me volunteers are the movers and shakers of the world,” Gandler said. “They’re busy people.”

Ambassadors accompany Gandler to high schools and Sierra College to conduct outreach and make presentations on the bus system; they target students, as many don’t have cars or want to spend the money to buy a parking pass.

Volunteer Lauren Williams-Arnes, 23, attends Sierra College and rides the bus everywhere she needs to go. She enjoys showing people that “you really don’t need a car.” With the upcoming holidays, Williams-Arnes knows she won’t have to worry about crowded parking at the Galleria mall.

“I’ve always been able to skip that holiday rush because I’m riding the bus,” she said.

The ambassadors also make regular visits to senior centers, where they hand out bus schedules and take photos of people for their bus passes right then and there — saving seniors a trip to Civic Center in downtown.

When the Vintage Square at WestPark senior community was built several years ago in west Roseville, residents without cars or driver’s licenses were stuck; it was difficult for them to go shopping or buy groceries because not much existed nearby. Then the city extended fixed route bus service to the housing complex.

Dave Serotta has lived at the complex for three years, and he said the bus has improved daily life for residents. He wasn’t a regular bus rider until Gandler presented on the advantages of the system, and he volunteered to become an ambassador.

“I’m retired, and I have to have a reason to get going in the morning, so I volunteered,” he said.

He’s been volunteering since July, and is still mastering the routes, but has discovered that he can get just about anywhere he wants to go riding the system — the Galleria, Kaiser or Sutter medical centers, Trader Joe’s. And seniors, in general, can ride all day for $2.

“It’s an educational process,” Serotta said. “People are not aware of how convenient and economical and time-saving (riding the bus) is.”