How to Ride

You may have been reluctant in the past to use transit in the Western Region because of its unfamiliarity. Using transit in rural areas like ours is not the same as in a big city. Most of our providers cover a large area?often countywide?and do not run regular routes. Some providers are human services agencies that are only trying to ?fill the gaps? and serve a specific population that would be without transportation otherwise. We do have some city-based services that may seem a little more familiar, though. The types of providers and services are important to know, since the unique qualities of each determine how you will ride. Also check out the information pages for the provider(s) you are interested in. You can see tips for each type of provider by clicking the links below. Don’t be frightened by all this information–this is really not as hard as it looks! When in doubt, just call the provider. They will be happy to help you.

Public Transit Agencies

Riding the bus can be a big leap for someone who has never done it before. These tips will be a big help for first-timers, and many of the tips in this section apply to the other types of providers as well.

Tips for Riding Public Transit
  • Call and speak to a dispatcher. Dispatchers of our city and county transit providers are intimately familiar with procedures, routes (if any), times, and other parts of operations.
  • Give sufficient notice. Although Hancock and Houghton demand-response services only need?and want?no more than half an hour?s notice and can respond fairly quickly, other providers may require as much as 24 hours. Giving appropriate notice will be much easier to arrange a ride at the time you want it.
  • Allow extra time. Due to the limited operations of these services, they might not always be able to arrive when they expect to or exactly when the schedule says they will.
  • Be waiting at your pickup location. The driver has done her best to pick you up or arrive at your stop at the right time. Don?t make her wait for you. If you will be waiting in a heated building near the usual bus stop or route, let the dispatcher know ahead of time.
    • Flag the bus down. If you are not waiting at a regular bus stop, as the bus approaches, show the driver that you want to be picked up by raising your arm and waving at him.
    • Watch for your stop. Indicate that you want to get off the bus by pulling the signal cord (if there is one) about a block ahead of time or by telling the driver.
  • Ask the driver questions. Most bus drivers in our area are very talkative and willing to help you learn how to ride the bus.
  • Tell (or ask) the driver if you are eligible for a discount. He will tell you whether documentation is necessary and will know to charge you the right fare. If a multiple-ride fare card is available, decide ahead of time whether it will benefit you, and buy it from the headquarters if necessary.
  • Be prepared to pay the correct amount. You must pay in cash with exact change. If you do not have it, be prepared to lose any excess amount paid. Public transit drivers do not receive tips.
  • Go about your business while riding. However, if you are listening to music or distracted, make sure you will hear the driver if she is trying to ask you a question about your trip.
  • Find out how to get back to your starting point. Your best bet is to find out ahead of time.

Human Services Agencies

Most of the same rules apply as for public transit providers, but a few new ones are listed here.

Tips for Riding with Human Service Agencies

These providers offer the same services as public transit providers but generally on a much more limited basis. In general, they receive federal funding for vehicle purchases to serve senior citizens and persons with disabilities. For that reason those consumer groups are given preference, but some providers will offer services, usually at a higher price, to the general public if extra space is available. These providers include Baraga-Houghton-Keweenaw Community Action Agency, Baragaland Seniors, and Dickinson-Iron Community Services Agency.

How to Ride

Most of the same rules apply as for public transit providers, but a few others are listed below.

Make sure you are eligible for services. As mentioned, user groups for these agencies are more limited than for public transit.

  • Find out where pickup locations are. Many of these providers will pick you up at your doorstep, but some others (mostly the infrequent fixed routes) leave only from a central location.
  • Make sure the driver knows if and how you will return. You don?t want to risk missing your trip home since many of these providers operate on very limited schedules.

Private Enterprise

Most people have probably ridden a taxi or long-distance bus at some point in their lives, but these tips will increase your level of confidence and comfort.

Tips for Riding with a Private Enterprise

There are two sets of tips below, the first for riding taxis and the second for riding an intercity bus (Indian Trails, in our region, which is similar to Greyhound). Contact other types of private providers directly for more information.

Most people have probably ridden a taxi at some point in their lives, and doing so is much like using demand-response public transit, but there are a couple of other tips that apply:

  • Make sure you know how much notice is needed. This especially applies if you are going to travel a long distance and have not done so before. Simply call dispatch for more information.
  • Double-check the fare. Taxi providers in our Region often use a complex fare system for local trips and charge per mile for longer trips. Make sure you know ahead of time how much you are going to have to pay, hold the driver to it, and have enough cash with you. If you feel you have been overcharged, pay the fare, but speak to a supervisor after your ride.

Likewise, most everyone has ridden a bus before, but using a scheduled intercity bus is different than other types. Remember these tips:

  • Confirm the bus stop location and time. Bus stops for this type of service can change and are often not very well defined to begin with. These buses also run on a strict schedule. If you are not waiting in the right place at the right time, the driver will not wait for you. On the other hand, you should arrive at least 15 minutes early just to be safe.
  • Prepare your luggage appropriately. Upon departure and arrival, the bus driver will load and unload any large bags you have (which are stored below the interior of the bus). If you will need anything with you inside of the bus, put it in a smaller bag or purse to take with you, as you will not be able to access it during the ride. Find out ahead of time how many bags you can bring. Tag it appropriately with the same name and address that are on your ticket.
  • Have your ticket ready at boarding. No one wants to wait for that person searching for it.
  • Be prepared to entertain yourself. Although your fellow passengers may be entertaining enough, it helps to have electronic time-wasters, books, and similar materials to pass away the hours.
  • Guard your possessions carefully. An intercity bus is an easy place to lose items or have them stolen.
  • Use restrooms off the bus when you have a chance. The on-board restrooms are not always pleasant, but there will be relatively frequent stops at which to use public restrooms (which may or may not be more desirable!).
    NOTE: Most of these tips are borrowed from and paraphrased.