Many of Sylvia Towle's friends used Juneau city buses to see doctors and go grocery shopping, until the city started charging them this month.
Now some say they have had to give up their only means of transportation, because of the new $12 monthly pass for seniors and people with disabilities.
"The only social event for many of our seniors is to take the bus to Fred Meyer, chitchat with their friends and come back. It makes them feel able," said Towle, 68. "Many of them cannot afford to pay $12 a month. They will have to stay at home. This will lead to a lot of isolation and depression in our seniors."
Towle was one of the many seniors who spoke against the policy to the Juneau Commission on Aging Thursday.
To deal with a potential budget shortfall, the Assembly approved the new fares in August. The city also increased the youth monthly pass from $10.50 to $12.
Capital Transit Manager John Kern estimated that the city can make $48,400 by charging people with disabilities and $17,800 by charging seniors. Seniors and people with disabilities represent about 20 percent of passenger trips.
The Assembly's new bus policy has upset its own senior advisory committee.
"The Juneau Commission on Aging did not meet this summer and unfortunately was not notified of the plan until it was announced at the end of the budget process and already approved," said Commissioner Lorilyn Swanson. "It was too late for us to act or to pose discussion meetings."
Swanson said the commission wants the Assembly to repeal its decision.
"There are many other ways for the city to get that revenue," Swanson said. "For some seniors, just taking a bus to the Mendenhall Valley and coming back lifts their spirits."
I-Chun Che can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.