Transit workshop fosters ideas for change

Improved routing, possible park-and-ride facilities discussed at transit planning workshop Wednesday
Residents and visitors board a Capital Transit bus to the Mendenhall Valley last year.

Community members, city developers and planners huddled over maps of the City and Borough of Juneau road system Wednesday in search of alternate routes that would make Capital Transit more efficient.

The planning workshop was part of the process in a comprehensive operations analysis and a transit development plan. Nelson/Nygaard transportation planners, the firm behind the plan, has played an active role in developing improvements to a system that saw 1.3 million passenger trips in 2012.

Representatives from Nelson/Nygaard have been back in town to continue studying current routes and fielding public comments on what would make for a better public transportation system in Juneau.

The workshop Wednesday included a interactive “planning game,” a tool used by the firm to get ideas on paper that will help community stakeholders understand the costs and trade-offs associated with route changes.

“It’s interesting to see where and what people have started with and focused on,” Paul Lutey of Nelson/Nygaard said. “People have focused on different areas.”

About 15 in attendance at the workshop were split into three teams. Each team determined important, key issues that they wanted to address.

Teams were allotted a certain number of weekly operating hours and instructed to draw routes on large, printed maps of Juneau’s road system.

Factoring total travel time into their route creations limited the amount of resources available to each group, simulating real-world constraints.

One group in particular wanted to focus on decreasing the parking strain on downtown. Another focused on dedicated service to certain areas or demographics that remain neglected.

Each group’s core focus ran the gamut of possibilities, considering route improvements to North Douglas, options for Thane residents and more.

Much of the collective conversation focused around transit hubs needed in the valley, with a heavy concentration on dedicated service to the university, the ferry terminal, and large employers such as the Walmart and Fred Meyer stores.

“What we’ll do is take the input from this and come up with initial service concepts,” Lutey said.

The firm plans to publicly present the findings of Wednesday’s workshop and other meetings in October.

“It’s been really amazing how people have developed an understanding of the intricacies of the system,” John Kern, Capital Transit superintendent said.

Kern noted that it helped garner further insight into what opportunities there are for future service improvements and enhancements.

“It makes so much more seem possible,” Kern said.

One of the issues Capital Transit faces is funding, as it costs $6 million each year to run the current amount of routes and staff its team of drivers.

“There’s a lot we can do, but yes, it also costs a lot to make changes and improvements,” Kern said.

The hope is that from further studying the need for improved transit — capital improvements such as technology upgrades and more buses — local funding mixed with federal grants will continue to stream in.

“It’s been a really productive exercise,” said CBJ Senior Planner Ben Lyman.

Lyman noted that the system, as it currently operates, is maxed out, and that the continued public participation is forging the necessary foundations for future improvements.

“They’re the vision for the future,” Lyman said of the study and mapping. “They do result in change.”

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

 

 

To take the online Transit Survey, go to juneautransitplan.org/

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