Six support dogs and trainers perform real-world learning on commuter rail
BOSTON – January 28, 2019 – Keolis Commuter Services (Keolis), the MBTA’s Commuter Rail operating partner, and the MBTA teamed up with Golden Opportunities for Independence (GOFI) to provide training for service dogs that will support people living with disabilities. On Saturday, January 26, six GOFI service dogs and their handlers traveled from Norwood to South Station on the MBTA Commuter Rail with round trip tickets provided by Keolis. The group connected to the Silver Line to experience a connected multimodal journey.
The MBTA Commuter Rail provides a safe and reliable transportation option for people with mobility issues and their service dogs, and this new partnership is a step toward further improving accessibility. Exposing these service animals to a commuter rail journey helps to make the train more familiar as a convenient mode of transit for people living with disabilities and provides access to more than 500 weekday trains that reach 130 stations across the greater Boston region and Rhode Island.
GOFI used the commuter rail to help socialize their service dogs by exposing them to various sights, sounds and smells that they need to ignore as they maintain focus on their human partners. Rail travel, other passengers and even the tactile surfaces they walk on are all important for the dogs’ socialization and environmental understanding.
“Our team in partnership with the MBTA is always looking to further improve the passenger experience on commuter rail,” said David Scorey, CEO and General Manager, Keolis. “This includes investments into the infrastructure and locomotives to improve reliability, enhancements in passenger communications for real-time service updates and partnerships like this that help to improve the lives of individuals with disabilities who can and should take advantage of public transit.”
“We are pleased to partner with Keolis and the commuter rail to provide this important training and socialization,” said Pauline Hoegler, Founder of GOFI. “These dogs will be matched with human partners that often rely on public transportation so we want to expose the dogs to various sights, sounds and smells on the trains, on the platforms and in the stations they will encounter on a daily basis. We appreciate the opportunity and generosity of Keolis to help these service dogs be all they can be for their partners.”
GOFI’s mission is to empower people with disabilities to live a fulfilling life with the assistance of a dog and a mentor. The service dogs are trained to assist their human partners with common daily tasks such as picking up items, turning on lights or opening doors. The dogs are also trained for medical alerts such as diabetic shock or epileptic episodes. Keolis officials joined GOFI during this multi-modal trip and continuously work with a wide-range of accessibility groups throughout the greater Boston region to facilitate further enhancements.
Service dogs are always welcome on the MBTA Commuter Rail.