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Therapy dogs climb aboard sbX

Passengers boarding one of our sbX buses last week enjoyed a ride-along with a dozen therapy dogs from Rim of the World Comfort Pets. The dogs were all different breeds, sizes, and personalities but they all had one goal: to bring a smile to people’s faces.

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After their initial surprise, riders had fun interacting with the dogs, talking with handlers and taking selfies to share with their friends. To their delight, they found that each dog had its own business card with its photo and story. When meeting a new person, the dog would touch a paw to the card to “autograph” and share it with them.

Each therapy dog has his own business card with name, bio & handler's name.

Each therapy dog has his own business card with name, bio & handler’s name.

As passengers got off at their stops, we asked them how they had enjoyed their trip.

“Best ride ever,” grinned one young man. “I wish every bus ride was like this!”

Handler Nancy with Biscuit. Bicuit is a Saint Bernard, Siberian Husky mix who thinks she’s a lapdog, She has one blue eye and one brown which gives her a distinctive look.

Comfort Pets CEO Linda Smith told us that they get that reaction a lot. “Even the grumpiest people break into a smile when they see the dogs,” she laughed. “They’re irresistible.”

Bernese Mountain dog Emma loves hiking, swimming, kayaking and paddleboarding. She also likes to glam up her look with a pair of sunglasses. Cockapoo Wallie loves frisbee and playing ball. He's also a great cuddler.

Bernese Mountain dog Emma loves hiking, swimming, kayaking and paddleboarding. She also likes to glam up her look with a pair of sunglasses. Cockapoo Wallie loves frisbee, going for walks and playing ball. He’s also a great cuddler and kisser.

According to their website at www.comfortpets.org, a therapy dog’s primary job is to make positive physical contact with individuals in need of comfort.

The animals are often hugged, petted, brushed, talked to, or simply sit on a person’s lap. Many dogs perform small tricks for those they visit; or even play carefully structured games. The dogs and their handlers provide comfort and therapeutic kindness in medical, social service, and educational settings.

In addition to being a therapy dog, Savannah is trained to alert handler Bob when his blood sugar spikes.

In addition to being a therapy dog, Savannah is trained to alert handler Bob when his blood sugar spikes. She also adores motorcycle rides!

Some of the therapy dogs perform specific services for their handlers as well. Savannah, a French Brittany, has been trained to alert handler Bob Bernier to changes in his blood sugar levels.

“I’m diabetic,” he explained. “And Savannah has an incredible sense of smell. When she picks up a spike in my blood sugar, she alerts me by running in a circle.”

You can't help but smile when you look at Dobby. This funny little pug loves to eat and enjoys a good game of fetch or tug-of-war.

You can’t help but smile when you look at Dobby. This funny little pug loves to eat and enjoys a good game of fetch or tug-of-war.

Bob chuckled. “As part of her training, I always reward her with a treat. One day she began running in circles, but when I checked my blood sugar it was normal. I thought she was just trying to get a treat. But 30 minutes later, my blood sugar spiked. She picked up on the change before the machine did!”

He leaned down to scratch her ears, “Savannah’s pretty amazing. She also loves riding on the back of my motorcycle every chance she gets. I’ve rigged a special harness for her. She definitely turns a lot of heads!”

Adorable Annie loves people of all ages. Whenever handler Kurt goes out, she likes to hitch a ride on his scooter.

Adorable Annie lloves people of all ages. Whenever handler Kurt goes out, she likes to hitch a ride on his scooter.

Annie, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, is handler Kurt Kauffman’s service dog as well as a therapy dog. She has traveled all over the country with him since 2006, visiting schools and hospitals. The joyful little dog loves to cuddle and hitch a ride on Kurt’s scooter.

Several of the dogs and handlers also volunteer regularly at the Loma Linda VA Hospital, and were very excited to ride sbX for the first time.

Labradoodle Elliot is a sweet little girl who became a therapy dog when she was just 11 months old. She loves playing with other dogs or chewing on a favorite toy.

Labradoodle Elliot became a therapy dog when she was just 11 months old. This sweet little girl loves cuddling with people, playing with other dogs or chewing on a favorite toy.

“This is fantastic,” said handler Carolyn Richie, who was on board with her Labradoodle Elliot. “It’s really comfortable, the air conditioning is great, and the layout is perfect. There’s a lot of room under the seats for a dog to stretch out. I think I’m going to start leaving my car at the Palm and Kendall park and ride and take sbX to the VA. It’s takes about as long to ride sbX as it does to drive, and this way I don’t have to worry about trying to find a parking spot. It also gives us a chance to meet new people!”

At the end of each quarter or semester, the therapy dogs visit CSUSB, Chaffey College and University of Redlands to help soothe faculty, students and staff during finals.

At the end of each quarter or semester, the therapy dogs visit CSUSB, Chaffey College and University of Redlands to help soothe faculty, students and staff during finals.

At the end of each quarter or semester, teams from Comfort Pets visit college campuses at CSUSB, Chaffey College and University of Redlands. Their P.A.W.S. (Pet Away Worries & Stress) event is designed to help soothe students, faculty & staff during finals.

Ginger looks into your eyes and understands what you say. She loves everyone, and will dance the Salsa, rollover and shake for a treat.

Ginger looks into your eyes and understands what you say. She loves everyone, and will dance the Salsa, rollover and shake for a treat.

According to Carlos Carrio, CSUSB’s Health and Wellness Coordinator, “Studies have shown it reduces blood pressure, reduces stress and it reduces cortisol levels.”

Wherever they go,  therapy dogs make people smile and feel good.

Wherever they go, therapy dogs make people smile and feel good.

“When you see your dog change a person’s life, it’s very rewarding,” said Linda Smith. “There’s a magic in these dogs that makes people laugh, relax and feel good. You can literally see the difference. It makes you a better person–happier and healthier. And it’s all free of charge!”

Siberian Husky Rusty was a rescue dog that chose Ron to be his new owner. His gentle, loving and and friendly nature makes him new friends wherever he goes.

Siberian Husky Rusty was a rescue dog that chose Ron to be his new owner. His gentle, loving and friendly nature makes him new friends wherever he goes.

For more photos of the therapy dogs on sbX, visit our Flickr album.

Want to meet the therapy dogs in person? Their next public appearance is on August 1st from 9-11 a.m., where they will be participants at a Teachers’ Breakfast event hosted by the Office Depot on Hospitality Lane. Enjoy prizes, special sales  and make some new furry friends!

You can learn more about Comfort Pets and how therapy dogs are making a difference in people’s lives, by visiting their website at www.comfort pets.org.

– Juno Kughler Carlson
juno.carlson@omnitrans.org

Like this story? All of our stories may be freely shared and published.

Comfort Pets therapy teams

Comfort Pets therapy teams

 

sbX celebrated with old & new friends

Thank you to everyone who joined us for free rides and giveaways during our sbX anniversary week. For us, the best part was seeing some favorite Omnitrans regulars and getting to know some of our new riders. Below are a few of the people we were able to spend some time with.

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Sisters and newbie riders Surely and Josh decided to take advantage of the sbX free ride coupon to visit one of the restaurants on Hospitality for lunch.

“We love riding sbX–it’s really nice,” said Surely. “I’m looking forward to going back to school at Valley College so I can start riding free with my student ID!”

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Our old friend veteran Ed Miller stopped by to say hello. He showed us the new leather cell phone case he had designed and embossed. Josh, who does porcupine quillwork, was very interested. “I should get you to make me a purse,” she told Ed thoughtfully.

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This little 2-year-old won our hearts when she played peek-a-boo with us at the Tippecanoe station. “She loves riding sbX and walking around the station with me,” her mom told us, smiling.

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Omni regular and Fontana resident Sandra has been riding so long that she knows all the routes by heart. She enjoys riding sbX and would love to see us expand the service to other areas. She was excited about our sbX giveaways like this Farmer Boys coupon.

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This charming veteran is part Scots-Irish and part Cherokee and used to race motorcycles in his younger days. He’s lived in this area since 1946, and remembers traveling the original Route 66. He likes how the sbX stations have helped to beautify the city again. He rides sbX frequently throughout the week to get to and from the VA Hospital.

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Dwayne Dennis is an old favorite among our coach operators, who have made him part of the Omnitrans family. When he stopped by the  Loma Linda Park & Ride for our travel mug giveaway, Coach Operator Mata asked us to take their photo together. Big smiles all around!

Juno Kughler Carlson
juno.carlson@omnitrans.org

What riders are saying about Omnitrans

“After buying a car, I realized that I would be saving roughly 60 dollars a month if I continued to take the bus to and from work. That means I’m saving 720 dollars a year. Oh yeah. I’ve come to enjoy my daily commute. Thanks Omnitrans!” – Ruben S.

“I love sbX because you have free wifi and we can charge our phones. That’s the coolest part. Keep the good job going.” – Moises F.

“I use Omnitrans for doctor appointments or just going to the movies. It is cheaper than running my car. You have always been there for me. I’ve used the bus service for over 25 years. Nice to relax and let Omni do the driving.” – Michelle E.

“It’s fast and there’s more room on the sbX bus. Especially when I go food shopping. I can find room for my basket and backpack that I fill with food once a month. I love the power outlets to charge cell phones. It makes riding the bus a lot less stressful.”  – Ronnie R.

“Friendly drivers, awesome experience, cheap way to get around when you don’t have a car. People are friendly. On the bus you make new friends with bus drivers and other people.  I love Omnitrans.” – Alicia S.

“I like Omnitrans because it gets me where I need to go, and I get a nap in on the way. It’s a blessing when you have no car.” –  Gorgoni J.

“Makes getting to work a snap and saves a ton on gas and insurance. Why have a car that you barely use when you can catch the bus, especially that awesome new SBX.” – Christian G.

“The Sbx is a great way to travel. It can literally be faster than driving a car due to the dedicated lanes. Not only am I saving some time, but I get to meet great people on the bus and reduce my eco footprint.” – Kimberly G.

“I love Omnitrans because I can go to CSUSB without the hassle of paying for parking, paying for gas, or looking for a parking space every time I have class. And the stop is right outside my house!!  I love it!!” – Cindy P.

 

E St. voted Best Urban Street Transformation

This month, San Bernardino’s E Street was voted “Best Urban Street Transformation of 2014″ on StreestsBlog USA. It was one of five streets nominated in the national Streetsie award competition and garnered an overwhelming 48% of the vote.

There is a lot to be proud of: dedicated bus lanes, beautiful landscaping, and sbX BRT stations with original art whose themes share the rich histories of our local communities. Ongoing events like the weekly Downtown San Bernardino Farmshare and Market and the monthly Third Thursday Food Fest (located by the E Street Civic Center Station) feature local farmers, vendors and food trucks to attract the city’s lunch crowd.

E Street has not simply molded the landscape of our city. It has created a renewed sense of civic pride as evidenced by the grass roots efforts of residents who rallied the community to vote in a show of support.

This New Year’s Eve, we are proud to celebrate the transformation of E Street and look forward to continued positive changes in 2015.

 

Zimbabwean student talks transit & sbX

Hunts Station photo by Juno Kughler Carlson

Cal State student Simbarashe Peresch at the sbX Hunts Lane station

Grand Terrace resident Simbarashe Peresch has been riding Omnitrans and sbX since he first arrived here from Zimbabwe on September 17th. He is currently enrolled at Cal State University San Bernardino where he is majoring in biology. Thanks to the Go Smart program, Simbarashe is able to get unlimited bus rides using his student ID. We caught up with him at the Hunts Lane station and asked what he thought about the sbX rapid transit line.

He told us he liked how quickly sbX gets him to campus. He was also impressed by the roominess, air conditioning and onboard Wi-Fi.

“It’s very different from Zimbabwe,” Simbarashe explains with a broad smile. “where I come from, we have much smaller buses that only hold about 15 people.  And it costs only 50 cents to ride!”

“Also I’ve noticed here that there is not that much of a distinction between cities,” he continues. “You can pass from Redlands into Loma Linda without knowing it. In my country there are vast lands of field between cities that separate them. You know immediately when you are out of town.”

He points to the art glass on the station windscreen beside him. “The designs of stations here are very beautiful too,” he grins. “Traveling here has been a very different experience for me. I very much like riding sbX.”

- Juno Kughler Carlson
juno.carlson@omnitrans.org

OmniTrans = Independence

A guest article written by Connie Jones, blogger for So I’m Legally Blind
Connie on her Omnitrans sbX bus ride

On my sbX bus ride

To me, the title of this post says it all! Without public transit, I wouldn’t have been able to go to school, work, the store, appointments etc. I’ve been legally blind since birth, and have never been able to drive.  So, like every independent visually-impaired girl, I hopped on the bus. Via the Omni, I was able to attend San Bernardino Valley College, and continue on to UC Riverside to complete my degree.  I’d catch the Omni at 6:30 AM and catch a couple of transfers to get to UC Riverside.  It took some serious time, but I did it!  With the help of Omnitrans, I was able to accomplish my goal of an education, meet some very interesting people and I learned that I can get to places on my own.  That meant the world to me!

Pointing at the customer service call box at the sbX station

Pointing at the customer service call box at the sbX station

Yes, Yes, I know, the bus can’t possibly be like driving a car, but for me, it allowed me to be independent. I’ve always imagined, ultimately, that’s what driving a car must feel like…the ability to get from one point to another.  I always remember how inexpensive it was for a day pass, and because I also had the disability identification card, it cost even less. I always ask if there’s a disability discount and Omni has always had that option.  Granted it did take time to get places, even using the Omnibus, but now they have the very nice sbX bus that bus is faster, has fewer stops, and is just plain awesome!

sbX ticket vending machines are also labeled in Braille

sbX ticket vending machines are also labeled in Braille

I work at the local university and they have a great rideshare program that has allowed me to catch a ride to work with one of my dearest friends. I’m a counselor who works with physically and visually-impaired students and I’m always talking to them about public transit options.  Luckily, I get to provide information about the Omnitrans Access Service for people with disabilities and now the sbX bus. Lack of transportation and providing information for individuals with visual impairments is one of the reasons why I started my blog, So, I’m Legally Blind.

Looking at the fare box with a day ticket

Looking at the fare box with a day ticket

Through my blog, I recently met Juno Carlson, a wonderful lady who does the Omni blog and we spent the morning on the sbX bus.  I loved it!  It has easy wheelchair access and tie downs for the wheelchairs. It also has several outlets where you can charge your phone, tablet and laptop. Very convenient! The machine where you pay is easy to read with large letters, has voice capability and is in Braille.  I really liked the large letters on the overhead board that provides transit info, etc.  Now, if I wanted to move, I could just catch the sbX and get to work faster.  Granted, the stops are fewer, but the sbX has stops in my area.  Every Omni bus driver I met couldn’t have been nicer.

Looking at the outlet that’s on the sbX for laptops, phones, tablets etc

I’m so grateful that Omnitrans was available to me when I was going to school and work. Now if I need to use the bus in the future….sbX awaits!

With the sbX coach operator

]With the sbX coach operator

 

 

Cyclist commutes successfully on 2, 4, or 6 wheels

This transit advocate enjoys the flexibility of combining his bike with the bus or sbX for local trips

“I take the bus whenever I don’t feel like sweating too much on my bike,” laughed Loma Linda resident Marven Norman when we caught up with him for a phone interview. “As a matter of fact, I’m on the sbX right now!”

An avid cyclist, Marven is also Vice President of the Inland Empire Biking Alliance. The group was formed to unify the cycling community to have a stronger voice in promoting bicycling for transportation and recreation.

“Right now the Inland Empire is one of the worst places for bikes. And it’s hard on drivers too,” said Marven. “Part of what we do is work with area agencies to improve the biking environment in our community with bike trails, bike lanes and other amenities.”

Marven has a strong interest in transit, from bikes and buses to trains and planes. He educated himself on transit planning issues a few years ago when looking into the possibility of new bike lanes.

“I realized pretty quickly that there was a bigger picture to be considered. It wasn’t just about putting paint to pavement. From that I also developed a strong interest in sustainable living and urban renewal.”

His first experience with Omnitrans was as a Valley College student in the Go Smart Program, which provided students at participating colleges with unlimited rides with their student ID. He liked the fact that he could save money and not worry about the hassles of campus parking.

Later he went on to get his Bachelors in Psychology from Cal State San Bernardino and now works as a substitute teacher for the San Bernardino School District. Although he owns a car, he still often favors a combination of bike and bus to get where he needs to go.

He believes more people would consider switching to bikes if more bike lanes were available, because it’s a fast and simple way to get around for quick trips. And for longer distance travel, challenging terrain or bad weather, it can be easily combined with the bus. With California’s recent approval of triple bike racks for buses, along with new bus rapid transit (BRT) coaches that offer interior bike racks, public transportation in the Inland Empire is slowly becoming friendlier to cyclists.

There’s also a growing sense of community among cyclists themselves, and many of them lend a hand to each other when riding the bus.

“If two of us get to the bus at the same time, we’ll usually talk and figure out who will be getting off first so we can set up the bikes accordingly. It makes it easier to unload your bike that way,” said Marven. “And sometimes on the bus when I see other cyclists trying to board and the racks are full, I’ll get off and bike to my destination. Most of the time I’m not going that far, and I can get there just as quickly on my bike. I’m also not intimidated by traffic like some cyclists, so I really don’t mind.”

As for the future, Marven is looking forward to Omnitrans’ development of the West Valley Connector Corridor. In addition to more BRT coaches, he hopes to see more bike improvements in the area.

- Juno Kughler Carlson
juno.carlson@omnitrans.org 

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