Fairbanks looks to improve bus service

FAIRBANKS — The Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly is still looking for ways to improve door-to-door bus service for disabled riders.

The service known as Van Tran started in 1985 and subsidizes door-to-door rides for eligible disabled passengers. The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports that it also runs at a higher cost than similar services offered by comparable municipalities in and out of Alaska.

Adam Barth, manager of Metropolitan Area Commuter System, said the borough will try to schedule vehicles to pick up multiple riders and let drivers go home early if there are no more riders for the day, a practice known as shift trimming.

But the assembly last week rejected a proposal to spend $66,000 on wages and benefits for a new ticket agent at the downtown transit center, which would free the Van Tran dispatcher to pack the schedule to eliminate the more than 1,200 hours that drivers sit idle each year.

Barth said one of the biggest differences between Van Tran and similar services outside Fairbanks is the policy of shift trimming. The provisions to employ shift trimming are already part of Van Tran drivers’ contracts but requires someone to pay close attention to fluctuations in ride demand.

“The extra person was just one piece of the puzzle,” Barth said. “It wasn’t the fix for everything. Now we’re trying to make the puzzle work without this piece. I’m not as optimistic that it’s going to work, but we’re going to try and see if we can make it work with the resources that we currently have.”

Assemblyman Guy Sattley voted for the new hire, but said he wasn’t completely sold. He said the borough’s presentation of the proposal was confusing and complicated.

“I think it deserves to go back to the drawing board and get reworked,” he said.

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