The Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority (AAATA) and the Neutral Zone have formed a new partnership to support local youth.
Under the new alliance between the transportation authority and the Ann Arbor teen center, AAATA will offer complimentary bus passes for under-resourced teens. It is expected that 50-100 youth who visit the Neutral Zone, or don't have easy access to transportation to go to work or school, will benefit. The Neutral Zone will also provide youth development training to AAATA staff and facilitate introductions between young riders and their bus drivers.
According to Neutral Zone executive director Lori Roddy, the partnership is the result of a series of conversations between the organizations' staff over the past couple of years.
"What it came down to is that the AAATA really wants young people to know that they are safe at the transit center and riding the buses," Roddy says. "They also want youth to feel that they belong and are important in terms of ridership."
She says some youth have not felt supported in the past as a result of several young people receiving trespassing violations at Blake Transit Center. She describes the new partnership as a "beautiful story" about how "people are going above and beyond" to show those young people they're cared for.
"Think about who kids see in the community on a consistent basis. It's often their bus drivers. We feel that supporting an ongoing relationship could be critical to some youth," Roddy says.
She explains that a driver might be an extra form of community support for young riders. They could spot things that might otherwise go unnoticed by other adults, such as a change of schedule or a noticeable change of appearance.
"Together AAATA and Neutral Zone are saying that kids deserve to not have to worry about missing great opportunities in the community," Roddy says. "We are saying we care."
Jaishree Drepaul-Bruder is a freelance writer and editor currently based in Ann Arbor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo courtesy of AAATA.