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Transit plan would add bus route, expand hours

Posted: January 8, 2014 - 1:06am

The draft proposal of an updated Juneau transit system will change some existing bus routes while expanding hours of operation.

The proposal, which comes after months of studies by an independent consulting firm and several public comment sessions, will go before the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly at its next meeting.

City senior planner Ben Lyman presented the draft at the Planning Commission’s Tuesday meeting, outlining the plan and taking comments from the commissioners. The commission moved to pass the proposal along as-is to the Assembly for review.

As it stands, the five-year transit plan, developed by San Francisco-based Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates, aims to improve on-time performance and provide bus service to sites that need it, including Riverside Drive in the Mendenhall Valley, the ferry terminal and the Lemon Creek industrial area. The last time the city adopted a new transit plan was 2008; the previous one was adopted in 1996.

The plan is broken into two parts: short-term and mid-term changes to the bus system. If and when the Assembly adopts the transit plan, the short-term changes would take effect “as soon as possible,” Lyman said. He said city staff hopes to have the adopted changes in action by the start of the next fiscal year in July. The mid-term changes would be implemented about five years later. The proposal is an amalgamation of the three original scenarios the firm developed, combined with public comments, Lyman said.

“It was never proposed as, ‘We will take scenario one, two or three,’” he said after the meeting. “This is our best fit.”

Among the short-term recommendations is to begin service to Riverside Drive; add a third bus to Express service during high-use periods; and maintain Nugget Mall as the main Valley stop. Riverside Drive “is the highest demand area in Juneau that is not served, and is/will be the location of important community facilities such as the Dimond Park facilities,” the proposal stated. To offset the cost of the extra Express bus, midday pickups would be reduced to once every 60 minutes, rather than the current once-ever-30-minutes schedule.

Also through short-term changes, Auke Bay’s service would end at 9:30 p.m., rather than the current 11:30 p.m. It would also end midday service to North Douglas. Most routes would run earlier and later than they currently do, however, including the bus to University of Alaska Southeast. The entire recommended plan, including changes to the bus schedule, can be found online at www.juneautransitplan.org.

All-in-all, the short-term changes would cost the city $200,000 to implement, according to the proposal.

The mid-term plans include new service to the Auke Bay Ferry Terminal and the Lemon Creek industrial area. Lyman said that because of budgetary constraints, it would be difficult to add these routes in the short-term. The proposed mid-term changes would cost the city about $1.2 million, most of that in personnel costs.

The proposal does not include a downtown circulator. Lyman said it was determined from public meetings that a circulator isn't as high of a priority as the other improvements, due to the walkability of downtown and existing bus routes.

CBJ transit superintendent John Kern said at the meeting that he hopes the city seriously considers the parts of the plan that implement new technology, including a GPS system the public could use to track bus locations. Kern said he feels that when it comes to technology, Juneau’s bus system is behind.

“We haven’t implemented any kind of technology to date,” Kern said. “We’ve been talking about technology for some time.”

• The proposed Transit Development Plan can be found online at www.juneautransitplan.org.

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