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Bus route changes put to the public

Posted: Friday, August 09, 2002

People who catch a ride on Capital Transit in the future could find shorter trips from the East Mendenhall Valley, more express service between Centennial Hall and the Nugget Mall, and a new route downtown.

But they might have to call Care-A-Van for a ride from North Douglas and have a hard time getting a ride from the West Mendenhall Valley.

The changes are proposed in a draft five-year plan for the city's bus system that is out for public review. The system records more than 1 million rides a year, but it isn't known how many different people, locals and visitors, use it.

Jarrett Walker, a consultant with Portland, Ore.-based Nelson\Nygaard who is working on the plan, said the goal is to match bus service to the most densely populated areas.

"We want to concentrate service on parts of the system where demand is highest," he said at a public meeting Wednesday.

Among the ideas proposed in the draft plan:

• Mendenhall Valley: The plan would eliminate all-day service between Glendale Drive and the University of Alaska Southeast on the loop route, although a rush-hour express would serve the West Valley. A new Mendenhall Valley loop would offer more frequent service to the East Valley, including densely populated areas on Riverside Drive and Stephen Richards Memorial Drive.

• North Douglas: The plan would eliminate three scheduled trips on weekdays, replacing them with subscription service through Care-A-Van.

• Downtown: Buses would use Franklin and Main streets and avoid Seward Street. Travel on Fourth Street would be replaced with Third Street. During the summer, the downtown route would make a turn at the rock dump instead of the cruise ship terminal. Capital Transit also is working on a detailed study about a separate, downtown circulator shuttle.

• Auke Bay: An express bus would make hourly trips between Auke Bay, UAS and the Nugget Mall.

• Express service: The express bus that runs between Centennial Hall and the Nugget Mall would run more often and into the evening.

The proposal to replace three North Douglas trips on weekdays with dial-a-ride service through Care-A-Van drew the most response at the public meeting Wednesday.

Capital Transit Manager John Kern said the plan proposes other changes for Care-A-Van to make it more efficient. Care-A-Van is operated by Catholic Community Service through a contract with Capital Transit and provides rides to senior citizens and the disabled.

Care-A-Van isn't open to the general public in Juneau now, but Kern said sharing service has worked well in rural areas elsewhere in the country.

"Given the input we had (Wednesday) night, we'd definitely have to set parameters on how the service would be provided," he said. "We heard strong interest expressed in the reliability of the existing fixed-route service and the importance of people's work trips."

The goal is to improve both Care-A-Van and regular service, Kern said. It's possible dial-a-ride also might work north of Auke Bay, he added.

Pat Carothers, whose wife, Elsie, uses the bus to get from North Douglas to work downtown each day, said Capital Transit will need to offer a Care-A-Van service on a set schedule.

"If they can dedicate and guarantee service, at least in the timeliness that they do bus service now, I don't think there's going to be too much opposition," he said. "But they have to go in concrete and say, 'These Care-A-Vans will be there and they will be available.' "

In a more immediate change, Capital Transit plans to build a new downtown transit center next year at the Centennial Hall parking lot. One idea in the plan would send buses from Douglas directly to the new center via Egan Drive.

West Juneau resident Ramona Green objected to the proposal. Douglas buses would bypass the post office in the Federal Building, the Alaskan and Proud market and the Juneau Senior Center, she said.

"It's eliminating a route that people in Douglas use," she said.

Based on negative public comment, Kern said Capital Transit is rethinking that proposal.

"The location of the downtown transit center does create the need to change the circulation of routes downtown," he said. "It's a question of how it will change."

Kern said Capital Transit also would like to hear responses to the proposal to split the Mendenhall Valley loop.

Adeline Souza, who lives near the Mendenhall River Community School, said the new loop route would be better for her. But she'd like to see an early morning bus from the Mendenhall Valley so high school students could take advantage of art, music and sports activities before school. School buses don't run at that hour, she said.

"If their parents can bring them into town, they can participate in that. But if their parents are like me and don't have car ... then they can't participate in it," she said.

Detailed cost estimates and an implementation schedule for the changes haven't been developed yet, but will be included in final documents, Kern said. Capital Transit is accepting comments on the draft plan through the end of August. Copies are available at local libraries.

Joanna Markell can be reached at joannam@juneauempire.com.



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