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Empire Editorial: Things to consider for Juneau's transit plan update

Posted: November 14, 2013 - 1:08am

City planners and consultants listened to public comments last month as they looked ahead to Juneau’s public transit needs in the near future.

Two public meetings were held, one downtown and the other in the Mendenhall valley, so stakeholders could weigh in on which aspects of three separate plans they would like to see incorporated. There were many good suggestions provided by those in attendance, several of which deserve special consideration as the city moves forward.

Residents at both meetings stressed the need for longer service hours for those who don’t work traditional 8-to-5 jobs. Individuals who live on the other side of town from potential employers will have their career options limited if early morning and late evening service hours aren’t expanded. Increasing public transit hours would benefit the private sector by increasing the number of potential employees as well. The city works hard to be business friendly and expanding service hours would help accomplish that.

Service to the University of Alaska Southeast should also be increased. UAS has taken steps to make the university more appealing to high school graduates in the Lower 48. Among those steps is the construction of a 31,000-square-foot freshman dormitory slated for completion in July. Many incoming out-of-state freshmen arrive in Juneau without their own form of transportation. The UAS dining facility is only open Monday through Thursday, and students are left to figure out their own meal arrangements the rest of the week. Most of these same individuals need to work in order to scrape by, just as college students in any other part of the country do. Increased bus service to the UAS campus would decrease the hardship these students face while living on a remote campus away from Juneau’s commercial districts. It also may help encourage more students to attend the university.

Another aspect proposed that make sense for Juneau is using the ferry terminal as a turnaround spot for businesses in the area that have employees who need additional transportation options., where many Juneau businesses and their employees

We also are in favor of the Lemon Creek route reaching Costco. Buying food in bulk and hoofing it in the elements is a tiresome experience and one that could easily be remedied by having buses travel a few blocks further.

There is still much to be considered before the next public transit meeting in December. We are glad to see the city looking forward at Juneau’s growing needs and are hopeful planners will take the best recommendations from those who spoke up at earlier meetings and will find a plan that addresses residents’ needs. We’re not only hopeful the city continues to listen to the recommendations offered, but also that the public stays engaged as conversations move forward.

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