MBTA partners with non-profit to train seniors and people with disabilities to use mass transit

The MBTA announced Tuesday it will partner with a local non-profit to provide improved travel training for seniors and people with disabilities who are considering using public transportation to reach their destination.

In years past, the T has provided help showing people around the public transportation system and planning routes that would best accommodate their needs. With this new program, called Ways2Go and funded with a federal grant, the T will be able to hold more extensive travel training seminars and reach a larger number of commuters.

The goal, MBTA General Manager Beverly A. Scott said at a press conference at Park Street station, is to “make the system fully open so that everybody can use and enjoy the T.”

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The training program will be operated in partnership with Door2Door Transportation, a Somerville-based organization that provides disabled people with rides to medical appointments and necessary errands.

“What we are aspiring to do here is to make the T, which has spent millions of dollars making sure it is as accessible as possible, more available to people who might not know it’s there for them,” said Reed Cochran, executive director of Door2Door.

For many people considering using public transportation for the first time, the prospect can be overwhelming, she continued. The Ways2Go program, she said, can help ease the transition.

“For senior citizens who have given up their car keys, it doesn’t quite come natural to them if you hand them a subway map and say, ‘Have fun,’” Cochran said. “You need to spend a little time with them, a class or two, to make them comfortable with it.”

The training is also a cost-saving measure for the transit authority — The Ride, the T’s door-to-door paratransit service for seniors and people with disabilities, is one of the most expensive per-person services the T provides. Last year, the T came under fire for doubling fares for users of The Ride, from $2 to $4, a move that many felt worsened quality of life for disabled riders whose tight budgets required them to cut back on outings.

The program, if successful, could help commuters dependent on The Ride transition to using subway, commuter rail, or bus service — a trend that would save the T cash in the long-run. Cochran said the training would help disabled residents save money, too.

“The T, more than anything else, can connect people to more places, at more times of the day, at a better price than any of us that are operating paratransit,” Cochran said.