Capital Transit could expand to Riverside Drive but not Costco

Capital Transit provides between 4,000-4,500 passenger rides each week day. The Transit Development Improvement Plan hopes to grow ridership. (Photo by Kelli Burkinshaw/KTOO)

Capital Transit provides between 4,000-4,500 passenger rides each week day. The Transit Development Improvement Plan hopes to grow that ridership. (Photo by Kelli Burkinshaw/KTOO)

Potential changes to Juneau’s bus system could include service to Riverside Drive, more reliable on-time service, and earlier buses. But expanding service to Costco or the ferry terminal could be cost prohibitive. That’s what the Juneau Assembly heard during Monday’s committee of the whole meeting.

According to Geoff Slater with Nelson/Nygaard Consulting Associates, Juneau has a great transit system. He says ridership on Capital Transit is among the highest in the country for a community of Juneau’s size, but there are some weaknesses:

“More people riding the buses are slowing down the buses. More traffic lights, more traffic are slowing down the buses, and the buses can’t keep on schedule for much of the day, especially in the afternoon. As the buses run behind, people miss transfers, the buses can’t stay on schedule, and I think for people to be able to rely on the system, it has to run reliably.”

After looking at the issue for more than a year, which includes working with the public and city staff, Slater presented several short-term recommendations for Capital Transit. He says the recommendations would fix existing operational issues and allow the system to expand into a new area, “Service would run on time a lot more. There would be service to Riverside Drive, the express route would come into the Downtown Transit Center, service would operate differently out on the Back Loop, and service would operate until 9:30 at night in and out of [University of Alaska Southeast].”

Riverside Drive has been deemed a high demand area in Juneau not currently served. Service there would provide access to Dimond Park Aquatic Center, Thunder Mountain High School, sports fields, and the future Mendenhall Valley Public Library. The recommendations would also have the Express service run earlier to get people to work by 7 a.m., but discontinue the North Douglas midday trip.

Capital Transit provides up to 4,500 passenger trips per weekday. Slater says his short-term recommendations would see that number increase:

“Service into Riverside brings service to a lot of people who aren’t served now and some of these operational improvement – with service being more reliable – that will also increase ridership. Overall, this plan will bring service to within a quarter mile about ten percent more households in Juneau. So more people will have access to this service and will avail themselves to it.”

Annually, the transit system costs the City and Borough of Juneau roughly $5 million. These recommendations would cost the city an additional $200,000.

Slater’s short term recommendations do not include service to the Lemon Creek industrial area, which includes Costco and Home Depot, or the Auke Bay Ferry Terminal. Expansion to those areas would cost the city an estimated $1 million per year.