Young people in Juneau will pay less to ride a city bus starting next month.
Under a plan unanimously approved by the Juneau Assembly on Monday, the price of a one-way trip on the bus for kids will drop from $1.25 to $1. The cost of a one-month youth pass will be $10, down from $18 for what was called a student pass.
The new fares take effect Aug. 1 and apply to youths between 6 and 18. Children 5 and under will continue to ride the bus free when accompanied by an adult.
Capital Transit Manager John Kern said the new fares will make it easier for kids to get to and from activities and will clear up confusion over the bus system's definition of a student.
"It's been talked about for some time," he said. "It's an effort to get more young people on the bus and make it less expensive."
Youths 6 to 18 represent about 18 percent of Capital Transit's ridership, based on surveys done this year. Alan Pagarillo, 15, who was riding the bus on Tuesday, said he'd probably use Capital Transit more if fares went down.
"I take the bus almost every day to get downtown to meet friends. I take the bus to work" at McDonald's, he said. "Sometimes I use it if I stay after (school) for study hall."
Miguel Reina, 10, said he's been using Capital Transit to get to the Boys and Girls Club of Juneau this summer. While he relies on his parents for transportation sometimes and rides his bike to school when the weather is good, he said he's likely to use the bus more, "especially if it's cheaper."
"It's actually pretty fun, especially on those new buses," he said.
The idea of a $1 youth fare was suggested by two Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School students, Sarah Ginter and Jon Saceda, as part of a school project, Kern said.
Last year, the Juneau School District's Community Schools Advisory Committee proposed that youths 18 and under ride the bus free, according to Community Schools Supervisor Joyce Kitka. Many young people have trouble participating in after-school activities because they don't have access to transportation, she said.
"This is what we got and we're very excited," she said. "It's a start. A $10 bus pass puts us in line with Anchorage."
The Juneau Assembly also has awarded the Community Schools Advisory Committee $3,500 in bus passes and tokens for children, Kitka said. The advisory committee will divide the allocation between youth drop-in centers, low-income housing areas, and community groups that work with kids, she said.
The Juneau School District operates school buses at no cost to students, but after-school activity buses serve only the two middle schools and some elementary schools, Kitka said.
Elizabeth Williams, unit director of the Boys and Girls Club of Juneau, said the changes will benefit kids and families. The club offers games, open gym, arts and crafts activities, and other programs.
"I would say we average 60 kids a day and about 10 ride the bus. And there are a lot of other kids that would come if the (bus) fee was lowered," she said. "No matter what time of year, it's always an issue as far as how kids are going to get around and get to programs."
Capital Transit doesn't expect to lose money from the lower cash fares for youths because ridership is expected to go up, Kern said. But the change in price for youth monthly passes likely will reduce Capital Transit's revenues by $6,500, he said.
The city bus system will continue to offer reduced-price monthly bus passes to University of Alaska students for $18. A regular monthly pass costs $30.
In another item approved Monday, Capital Transit will offer free bus rides to United States military personnel not assigned to permanent duty in Juneau. The bus system usually offers free rides to military personnel visiting over the Fourth of July, and the change will reduce administrative legwork, Kern said.
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