- The Washington Times - Monday, January 3, 2005

DANVILLE, Va. (AP) — In a small sign of Virginia’s changing demographics, the Danville transit system is going bilingual, with a Spanish-language version of its transit guide.

The guides are currently available on each of the city’s buses and at area markets and retail stores such as Wal-Mart.

“Our bus drivers were asking for marketing materials to improve communications with Hispanic passengers,” Transportation Director Marc Adelman said. “They were expressing an interest for this because the Hispanic bus population was increasing, and they thought it would be helpful to have marketing information available in Spanish.”

Mr. Adelman said the Spanish guide is only part of a more comprehensive effort by transit officials to bridge the gap between English-speaking and Hispanic residents and to make the system easier to use.

Beginning this month, the approximately 25 full- and part-time city bus drivers will return to the classroom to learn Spanish.

The goal is not to have drivers speak fluent Spanish, but rather to enable them to communicate more effectively with passengers and create a better overall riding experience, Mr. Adelman said.

An instructor with Danville Public Schools’ Adult Education Program will teach the courses.

A survey conducted by the transit system in the fall revealed that only 2 percent of riders are Hispanic. Mr. Adelman said, however, the bilingual effort could increase the number of Hispanic passengers.

Bus drivers aren’t the only city employees who will be learning Spanish. Members of the Danville police and fire departments will begin instruction on Jan. 18.

Andrea Witt, Danville’s human resources director, said the city is partnering with the local nonprofit Writers’ Block International to offer the courses.

The 12-week course will focus on teaching employees the language as it relates to their specific job duties.

Miss Witt said the city departments with the most immediate need, such as police and fire, would receive the training first. Other departments will follow.

“We plan to take it across the city,” she said.

Fire Chief B.G. Lewis III said several of his firefighters had asked him about receiving Spanish instruction.

“Right now, we have over 100 people that have signed up for the class,” Chief Lewis said.

Danville Police Lt. Mike Mondul said about 20 of the department’s officers had signed up for the course.

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