This is 30: On travel buddies

Did you know that May is Older Americans Month? And that older adults are the fastest growing age group in Los Angeles? And that by 2030, one in five Angelenos is going to be over 65?  And that as people age and drive less (or not at all), the risk of social isolation becomes a lot greater? 

In 2013, Metro launched its On the Move Riders Program (OTMRP) to address these very issues. The program is designed to empower older adults with the information and confidence to travel on fixed-route transportation. It’s led by the Travel Buddies –– a diverse group of transit-savvy volunteers committed to opening new doors for others. There are now 46 Travel Buddies working out of 28 clubs located across Los Angeles County.  

I was curious about the program, so I interviewed Paul Hesse and Paul Salcido, two SGV-based Travel Buddies –– better known as “the Pauls.”  

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity. Read on!  

Paul Salcido (left) and Paul Hesse (right) get ready to welcome a new group. Photo: Aurelia Ventura

How did you guys meet?  

Paul H – We met in a class we took together about six years ago at our senior center –– I remember it was shortly after Thanksgiving. The course was called “Successful Aging: How to Grow Old Gracefully.”  

Paul S – Paul was sitting across the table and after the class, when we struck up a conversation, we realized that we shared the same name!  

And how did you become Travel Buddies?  

Paul S I was already a member of the Travel Buddy program by the time we met. I had gotten reeled in thanks to a friend who worked at our senior center and she invited me on a trip. We had a lot of fun, so I went on a few more trips, and eventually enlisted to lead trips myself. I have been doing it ever since.  

Paul H – Paul S. told me about the program and invited me on a couple trips, and I realized I didn’t want to be the new kid on the block! So I became a Travel Buddy too.   

What do Travel Buddies do?  

Paul S – The Travel Buddy program is designed to get seniors out on trips, and to show them that they can hop on a bus or train and visit many different places. Many seniors that we take on trips don’t have access to cars. Or maybe they no longer drive. They might be reluctant to go out because it’s a little harder to get around. Our goal is to help these people feel less isolated.  

Paul H – We meet once each quarter to discuss the recent trips we’ve taken, and to get ideas for new ones. Once we decide on a new destination, we announce the trip on a flier, put it on the calendar, and post a signup sheet at the senior center so we know how many people to expect.  

Paul S – There’s a lot of planning that goes into each trip. A week or so before the trip, we always do a trial run. A couple Travel Buddies will head out to the destination and get the lay of the land. We check for the best transit connections, make sure that the stops are accessible, scout out amenities, such as restrooms nearby, and look for interesting landmarks and local restaurants we can show seniors on each trip.  

Paul H – When the day of the trip rolls around (usually the week after the trial run) we all gather at the senior center and the Buddies show all new participants how to ride the system. This could mean teaching them how to purchase and use a TAP card and take advantage of its discounted senior rates. We also show them how to use the wheelchair ramps in order to get on the buses or trains. Then we’ll head out, usually around 8:30 or 9 in the morning (when the senior rate kicks in). It’s often a very diverse group. You’ll hear people speaking Korean, Chinese, Tagalog, and Spanish –– all sitting together. Once we reach the destination, we might have lunch or break out into smaller groups. It’s usually a pretty full day. 

What kinds of places do you go?  

Paul S – We took the 720 bus from Whittier Boulevard down Wilshire Boulevard, where it drops you off right in front of LACMA. We also took the Gold Line to the Santa Anita Racetrack, where we got a tour of the paddock and saw a few races too. That was a popular outing. 

Paul H – The San Antonio Winery trip was also very popular. We got off the Gold Line on the Chinatown on Main Street and walked all the way down to the winery. Not everyone but quite a few of us did the tasting. A lot of glasses ended up getting passed around!  

What have you enjoyed the most about the program?   

Paul H – I’ve made a lot of new friends. In addition to the classes we’ve taken, it’s a good way to meet people outside of a classroom environment.  

Paul S – At the end of each trip, people are always asking when the next one will take place!   

Paul H – There are a lot of regulars. 

Paul S – One of the big rewards is really the enjoyment of other travelers––getting them to see places they haven’t been before, or that they haven’t visited in a long time that they’re seeing again with fresh eyes.  

So … what’s next for the Travel Buddies?  

Paul S – In May, we’re planning two trips. The first, on May 18, is a trip to the Older Adults Transportation Expo, which takes place from 9am-2pm at the Pasadena Convention Center. We’re planning to take the Gold Line [L Line] to the Pasadena Memorial Park Station, and, from there, shuttle buses to the location. The following week, on May 25, we’re planning a trip to the Natural History Museum in Exposition Park.  

Paul H – And when the Regional Connector opens, it will be big for us. We’ll probably plan a trip out to Santa Monica, which will take only an hour from our senior center instead of one and a half to two hours. We might plan a trip Downtown for the grand opening day too.  

Paul S – We have strength in numbers.  


Want to learn more about the On the Move Riders Program? Visit or email

Got a cool story about taking transit in Los Angeles? We want to hear from you!  



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3 replies

  1. Me to Can I join the group, even if I’m not part of their facility?

    • Hi Evan;

      Please go to this web page — — and scroll to bottom right where you’ll find a button for ‘subscribe to calendar.’ Click on that and you can choose which program to use to see our calendar. Hope that helps and thanks for the interest and support!

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  2. Can I join the group, even if I’m not part of their facility?