10 Year Anniversary

Recognizing 10 Years!

The Bus Buddy Program is celebrating its 10th anniversary of assisting bus riders in Thurston County! The program provides free, one-on-one assistance for people who want a little extra help riding the bus. We have many dedicated Bus Buddies that volunteer their time and share their knowledge of riding the fixed-route bus system while providing excellent customer assistance skills to riders.

The Bus Buddy Program attracts a range of customers. From parents needing assistance getting their children to school, exchange students needing help getting around town, people needing help getting to the grocery store or appointments, as well as those who are no longer able to drive. This program works for anyone, no matter their age or ability!

We are grateful to all the Bus Buddy volunteers and the program coordinator, Scott, for their contributions to our community and their dedication to assisting passengers with their transportation needs. Our volunteers look forward to helping you begin your bus riding adventure!

What is a Bus Buddy?

A Bus Buddy is an experienced bus rider with excellent customer assistance skills who wants to help others discover the benefits of riding the bus.

Need a Bus Buddy?

The Bus Buddy program provides free, one-on-one assistance for people who want a little extra help riding the bus. Your Bus Buddy will:

  • Answer questions about riding the bus
  • Help you learn new routes and how to make local transfers
  • Ride with you to new destinations
  • Show you how to make connections with other regional transit services
  • Help you with online tools, and 
  • More!

Group Trips

Our Bus Buddy program schedules fun bus trips for groups. Options include restaurants or other locations in Olympia and Tacoma and Seattle for an array of community events including concerts, bazaars, museums, and more. Each trip is led by one of our volunteer Bus Buddies. All you need to do is decide where and when you want to go and give us a call with three to five days notice. We'll match you with a bus buddy or two. 

Want to be a Bus Buddy Volunteer?

Are you an experienced bus rider who would like to help others become more comfortable riding the bus? Bus Buddy volunteers must provide three references and pass a Washington State Patrol background check.

How Does it Work?

Bus Buddy Volunteers receive six hours of practical training and then get matched with riders who want a little extra help riding the bus.

What are the Benefits?

Bus Buddy volunteers receive recognition for their service, group lunches twice a year, reimbursement for meals, and mileage reimbursement, if necessary. To learn more about becoming a Bus Buddy, call 360-688-8832 or email BusBuddies@intercitytransit.com.

Bus Buddy Volunteer Registration Form

Meet the Bus Buddies

Our bus buddy volunteers are men and women who range in age from 39 to 76. Many of our volunteers enjoy taking customers to places like Tacoma, Seattle, Puyallup, Port Townsend and Centralia. They have a wealth of knowledge and most have been riding the bus for years. They look forward to helping you begin your bus riding adventure. Just give us a call.

More Information

To request a Bus Buddy to assist with your travels, contact Scott Schoengarth at 360-688-8832. Please provide 72-hours notice for local trips and three to five business days for trips to other counties.

For general program information contact Scott Schoengarth at 360-688-8832, BusBuddies@intercitytransit.com or ScottSc@ccsww.org.

The Bus Buddy Program is a partnership between Intercity Transit, Catholic Community Services of Western Washington, Volunteer Services, and Washington State Department of Transportation.


 

Thurston County’s largest communities are the cities of Olympia, Tumwater, and Lacey. It also boasts smaller towns such as Rainer, Rochester, Grand Mound, Bucoda, Tenino, and Vail. The fourth largest city in the county is Yelm, located in southeastern Thurston County adjacent to its border with Pierce County, along the Nisqually River. The city, with a 2020 population of 10,617, sits near the Nisqually Indian Reservation (located to the northwest on State Route 510), and Joint Base Lewis–McChord on the northeast side of the river. Another major highway, State Route 507, connects Yelm to Centralia and Spanaway near Tacoma.

The Yelm Walmart serves as the departure point for Intercity Transit buses heading back to the Olympia Transit Center, approximately 22 miles away, which includes a stop at the Centennial Train Station on the Yelm Highway. This is quite a journey for a young person who is legally blind and uses a cane to get around, but that hasn’t stopped Angel Parra!

Angel likes to take the bus and go wherever he wants, so he’s been calling on the Bus Buddy Program to send volunteers to Yelm to meet him at the Walmart, ride the bus back to Olympia, and transfer to the correct bus to get where he is going. He’s trying to learn each route so he can eventually ride the bus alone. In mid-November he rode the bus alone from Yelm to Olympia, where Bus Buddies Geoff and Tom met him and then transferred to the bus going to the Thurston County Courthouse, where Angel hoped to legally change his first name from Damien to Angel.

While there are Dial-A-Lift buses that go to Yelm, it has been determined that Angel can mostly ride the bus alone. Dial-A-Lift picks him up at the house he shares with his grandmother and drive him to the Walmart, but from there he is on his own. This is where the Bus Buddy Program has made a big difference in Angel’s life. He can’t read signs, so he memorizes a route using visual signage like the colors of buildings.

I recently asked some of the Bus Buddies who have been traveling with Angel, such as Clair, Geoff, Tom, JoAnn and Donna, for their impressions of Angel. I heard words such as enthusiastic, adventuresome, and independent. One Buddy said: “Angel is incredibly eager to learn and participate in as much as he can. His enthusiasm for life is contagious. He loves conversations about traveling and all the places he would love to go and visit. He has impeccable skills, and is not afraid of going to new places and learning new skills.”

This is just one example of how the Bus Buddy Program is helping one visually- impaired individual learn to ride the bus here in Thurston County. It is going quite well and we envision a time in the not too distant future where Angel won’t be calling anymore. Instead he’ll just hop the bus and off he goes. He is a real inspiration to the Bus Buddies who have ridden with him during the past few months.

We hope other people will read this article and become inspired enough to give the buses a chance.