Wednesday, May 5, 2004

TANK selling kids on benefits of bus

By Karen Gutierrez
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Reflected in a parabolic mirror, TANK bus driver Frank Tacopina calls on a student on his bus at Fort Wright Elementary during a recent visit to the school to educate children about public transportation.
The Cincinnati Enquirer/PATRICK REDDY
FORT WRIGHT - Devon Fox, 6, could hardly contain his excitement. He had been on buses before, but this bus could talk.

"Stop requested," a voice said whenever a cable was pulled.

Devon grinned. Time for a zillion questions.

"How does it talk?"

"Are there all kinds of talking buses?"

"If we touch something we're not allowed to touch, will it talk to us?"

The friendly interrogation came as part of an outreach effort this week by the Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky.

To groom future riders and help teach concepts such as pollution, TANK has been sending buses, bus drivers and bus educators to schools over the last year.

On Monday at Devon's school, Fort Wright Elementary, TANK marketing coordinator Barb Schneider played a game with several classes of first-graders.

Then she led everybody outside.

"Want to get on the bus?" she asked.

"Yeah!" they shouted.

Ally Mayhause, 6, bounded in and grabbed one of the poles in the aisle.

"I got to ride the buses at Disney World, and I had to go like this!" she said.

Schneider told the children about paying fares, waiting for buses, learning routes and signaling for stops.

She gestured to driver Frank Tacopina and said he had to get up very early.

"Are you tired?" Devon asked. "Can you sleep on this bus?"

TANK has 1,800 bus stops in Northern Kentucky. At times it must eliminate routes when ridership falls. From last July through March, people boarded TANK buses 2.76 million times, about 80,000 times less than the same period last year.

Visiting schools is partly a way to increase those numbers, General Manager David Braun said.

"We hope these students will take the information home to their families and see that we are a good alternative for people," he said.

The kids got the message. Riding buses saves gas, which cuts down on pollution, said Grayson Duncan, 7. And if you take a bus, "You don't have to spend that much money," said Liam Rabe, 7.

For information about TANK's program, call 859-331-8265.


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