Part 2 of 2 from our Guest Contributor Greg Sneath (see part 1)
Skills scaffold on each other. The early reading and number work paid huge dividends when trying to tackle these independent travel skills. Reading the bus destination and checking times are within the grasp of most of our young adults. Being able to ask questions of the bus driver or shop keepers, or mothers with young children (as a measure of a suitable responsible adult) is also an invaluable skill. Being able to read sign boards or street names to identify the location on those occasions when lost, provides a huge comfort.
Having practiced bus travel to very familiar places, such as school, shops, library, swimming pool over several years ensured comfort with the fundamental processes. Computers, phones and on-line tools have helped enormously with the prospect of taking independent travel further and navigating to unfamiliar places.
Google Street View enabled us to look at the streetscape for a new destination before we started. Often we would follow the Google Street View with a trip in the car to reconnoitre a new destination, then back to reinforce the message with Google Street View again.
Part of the electronic support was provided by the process of using Journey Planner (with AT Journey Planner in Auckland, Metlink Journey Planner in Wellington). It seemed like a hugely difficult task to master, however, after having it modelled and practiced hundreds of times, the skills can be developed. Now, with the mobile phone and journey planner available, the opportunity to navigate the city is truly a feasible option.
And of course most of these practical steps have been practiced and demonstrated right from very early on when taking public transport. It was a real help to not have a car and regular use of public transport was a normal process. At each stage the new skills were being scaffolding on old familiarities.
However, the real game changer in providing confidence and access to new territories was becoming familiar with using the map, and blue location dot on the phone’s ‘Travel Planning’ app. This has been invaluable beyond measure. It has been empowering in that the Google Street View preparation is followed by (almost) a real-time, definitive ‘blue dot’ marker to show which bus stop to get off at for the destination, where you are now and how many bus stops (or train stops) remain.
There were many occasions when the travel went wrong. Getting off at the wrong stop. Getting on the wrong bus. Getting on the correct bus route but in the wrong direction. Getting everything right to the bus destination, but walking the wrong way after getting off.
Having confidence to overcome the errors and getting lost is, however, an essential skill for independent travel. The first lesson, from the very earliest of ages, is about travel safety. For example, staying in busy areas with lots of people about, not travelling in late afternoon or dark. Keeping any money or cards hidden and put them away when not in use. Asking for help or information when needed from bus drivers, police, shop keepers, librarians, or mothers with young children. Watching what is happening around you to remain alert.
Practice the safe travel guides, and as is so often the case with our young people, the incremental steps have very gradually led to development, skills and ability that is way beyond initial expectations, and opened a lot of doors and opportunities.