LOS ANGELES -- Retired film editor Joanne D’antonio has found the perfect retirement job teaching older Angelenos how to ride public transit, which might not be as easy as it sounds.
Many of them have been lifelong drivers and are unfamiliar with how the Metro system works. D’antonio, who grew up in Pittsburgh, has been a lifelong public transit user herself and purposely moved to a house in the Valley that's convenient to the bus and train lines.
But D’antonio says many Angelenos, of all ages, have difficulty using public transit.
“People have a fear factor here,” said D’antonio. “They'll go to Europe and ride public transportation, but in Los Angeles they have a fear factor. So what we do is try to overcome that and make it something that is fun.”
D’antonio teaches transit travel through the Green Light to Mobility program which is offered through the nonprofit organization New Horizons under a grant from the federal government and Metro.
Training consists of classroom presentations on how to navigate the transit system safely and efficiently, followed by field trips.
Teresa Torres, a new student taking D’antonio’s class at the One Generation Senior Center in Reseda, hasn't taken the bus for 40 years.
“I love it,” said Torres. “It explains especially with technology now. I have less fear taking the bus now with these classes.”
D’antonio explained that facing traffic, paying for fuel and parking, and perhaps struggling with mobility prohibits a lot of seniors from getting out and enjoying the city. But once they see how easy travel can be on Metro, seniors will be more likely to venture out.
“We go places where we’re spending $20-30 on parking but we can end up across the street with Metro,” said Laraine Reisner, who is new to public transit. “That doesn’t make sense.”
The guided field trips, led by D’antonio, give participants a chance to go through the paces and ask questions as they arise. She designs the field trips to be fun and to demonstrate how accessible L.A. is by public transit.
“With utilizing public transportation,” explains D’antonio, “you can find that it might just be fun not to have to drive.”
Most importantly, the Green Light to Mobility program builds confidence in riding public transit and reminds people of the many great destinations L.A. has to offer.