The state of public transportation within our capital city has improved in recent years with the addition of new buses, new routes and more frequent service. We are slowly coming to par with other similar-sized cities in the U.S. in terms of accessibility, convenience and energy efficiency of the bus system. Of course, more progress needs to be made.
For over a decade, our Capital Transit bus fares have been too high to encourage the commuting public to even consider the bus as an alternate method of traveling to work each day. Meanwhile, traffic congestion in downtown Juneau worsens each year. Many public meetings have been devoted to debating solutions to this congestion-parking problem. I feel this week's decision by the borough Assembly to increase Capital Transit fares by 20 percent is a step backward for transportation planning in Juneau. I was shocked this resolution was passed unanimously, without debate.
Rather than being penalized, those of us who use public transportation on a regular basis should be rewarded. Our habits save fuel, reduce air pollution, and cut down on congestion. Our city leaders should be focusing on ways to make Capital Transit more attractive to more people in Juneau, even those who own reliable cars!
Mismanagement of budgets and tough economic times have put our lawmakers in a mood for adding new taxes. How about a city tax on gasoline - a few cents on the gallon would suffice - with proceeds to be used for improvements to Capital Transit? We need a $1 fare, more express routes, and someday, a light rail train running between the Valley population centers and downtown. What we don't need are more freeways and eyesore overpasses. Juneau could be a model for transportation planning in the 21st century, if only our leaders dared to think outside of their cars.