Our City

Fall 1997, page four

Capital Transit turns to the future

Capital Transit – Juneau’s municipally owned bus system – is on a roll. Though the number of passengers keeps rising, bus service here remains as reliable as the mailman.

Juneau’s buses carry more than twice as many passengers as do public transportation systems in similar-sized communities across the country, according to a study completed last year by a Bellevue, Wash., research firm. The study compared Capital Transit to 10 other bus systems in places as far-flung as the Florida Keys to Martha’s Vineyard off the Massachusetts coast.

"Ridership is phenomenally high for a community of this size," said John Kern, who has served as Capital Transit’s general manager since 1983. Capital Transit’s annual passenger total has grown by nearly 30 percent since 1987.

Despite the ever-rising passenger loads, Juneau’s buses have remained on schedule. Last year, Capital Transit provided more than 831,000 rides. And out of nearly 20,000 hours of service, the buses missed only three hours.

Passenger loads are also on the rise for Care-A-Van, a senior-citizen and handicapped-persons transportation system operated by Capital Transit. Care-A-Van tallied nearly 24,000 "passenger trips" last year.

Plans are in the works to make Capital Transit even more reliable and convenient in the future.

For starters, Capital Transit will soon go out to bid on a $1 million purchase of four new buses. Kern said 90 percent of the money for the new buses will come from a federal grant.

The buses, which Kern said should be on the streets within two years, will have a new "low-floor" design that makes it easier for passengers to get on and off.

Kern said Capital Transit is working toward a goal of eventually providing hourly bus service within a quarter-mile of all Juneau residences.

With that goal in mind, Capital Transit recently completed a Transit Development Plan, which is expected to come up for consideration by the City-Borough Assembly this month.

The plan calls for making several major schedule and route changes over the next four years:

* Add a separate route to serve the airport, Auke Bay, University of Alaska and Back Loop Road, and another route to serve Riverside Drive and Loop Road. Both new routes would connect with existing Mendenhall Valley-to-downtown routes.

* Increase service to every half-hour during peak periods for the Mendenhall Valley-to-downtown and the Douglas-to-downtown routes.

Under the plan, virtually all of the bus routes would switch to a half-hour schedule within five years. The plan also calls for adding 115 new bus stop signs, 15 new passenger shelters and additional bus storage space.

Kern notes, however, that any such improvements will require additional support from Juneau taxpayers. Already, more than $1.7 million of Capital Transit’s $2.35 million annual budget comes from local revenues.

Increasing bus service would increase the amount of that local subsidy. For instance, switching all routes to a half-hour schedule would cost an estimated $700,000 extra each year.

Capital Transit Facts, Figures and Phone Numbers:

Number of rides taken last year: 831,512

Average weekday number of rides: 2,690

Number of Care-A-Van rides last year: 23,933

Number of buses: 14

Number of handicap-accessible buses: 5

Number of vans (Care-A-Van): 8

Total miles logged annually: 588,000

Number of bus stops: 135

Number of passenger shelters: 26

Number of employees: 27

Number of drivers: 9 full-time; 11 part-time

Capital Transit customer service phone number: 789-6901

Care-A-Van customer service phone number: 586-4482

Capital Transit
Transit Development Plan, 1996.

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