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Public weighs-in on Capital Transit improvements

Posted: June 12, 2013 - 6:52pm  |  Updated: June 12, 2013 - 11:33pm

The wheels for capital improvement to Capital Transit are in motion.

Improvement and development of the capital city’s transit system was the topic of several community open houses this week where residents voiced concerns and offered suggestions for public transportation here.

The firm behind the comprehensive operations analysis and transit development plan, Nelson/Nygaard transportation planners, presented the findings of an analysis of Capital Transit at the downtown library Thursday, their last presentation of the week.

“It’s a good opportunity to identify capital improvements for the system that may be updated for the next five years,” said Paul Lutey of Nelson/Nygaard, “but also to make sure the system is being provided with the existing resources as efficiently and effectively as possible.”

From their initial surveys and subsequent study that consisted of both Capital Transit and Care-A-Van services, it found that the transit system here was highly likeable. However, improvements in service to areas such as Lemon Creek and circulation downtown could be improved.

Some of what the firm gathered from more than 1,000 surveys:

• 70 percent of riders don’t have a motor vehicle.

• A good portion of the ridership, between the ages of 24-34, don’t foresee themselves purchasing a vehicle.

• Access to bus stops, especially during the winter, needed improvement, whether that be walkways or better shelters at stops.

• 42 percent of riders use transit for work; 16 percent for shopping; 12 percent for recreational activities; 10 percent for school; and 15 percent for medical purposes.

• Of all the riders surveyed, 77 percent never transfer, whereas 5 percent transfer regularly.

Similar studies are conducted throughout the country generally every five years. The last plan adopted here was in 2008.

Going forward, “we’ll incorporate comments from the public meetings,” Lutey said.

An update to the project goals and objectives with consideration of public comment will be presented in August, followed by an initial service update in September. A final report will be presented as early as March 2014.

Concerns that the public had at Thursday’s meeting were vast and varied, from residents who lived in the valley to a resident from Thane.

John Kern, transit superintendent, fielded questions about improvements to the downtown transit center such as a vendor in the waiting area.

“We have a beautiful facility here now,” Kern said. “But we can do more.”

Some of what residents present at the meeting felt could be improved upon:

• Implementing a long-term pass rather than a month-to-month pass would alleviate the challenges of obtaining a pass at one of the three current vendors.

• Routes in downtown have become more constrained with projects in the Willoughby district, and could be made more efficient as projects in that area continue.

• Special bus rides to places where buses would not normally shuttle passengers, such as Thane or out the road.

• Bus shelters were insufficient at keeping riders dry and safe as they awaited their bus.

• Some felt that the downtown transit center should be relocated to the valley.

Capital Transit, Community Development and the firm behind the study are seeking further public input as they move forward with the evaluation stages of the plan.

To take the online community transit survey and enter your input, go to JuneauTransitPlan.org.

Contact reporter Kenneth Rosen at 523-2250 or at kenneth.rosen@juneauempire.com.

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