Juneau Assembly delays changes to Capital Transit bus plan

(Photo by Kelli Burkinshaw/KTOO)
A Capital Transit express bus. (Photo by Kelli Burkinshaw/KTOO)

The Juneau Assembly has decided to delay changes to the Capital Transit bus plan. Public comments on the proposed changes to bus routes were largely negative.

Around 200 people attended seven public meetings on the proposed Capital Transit plan last week. Some were concerned that their comments wouldn’t be taken seriously. Public works director Kirk Duncan oversaw the sessions and says every comment was included in a thick binder handed to the Juneau Assembly on Monday. The comments were categorized by consulting firm DOWL HKM.

“It just seemed important that we actually really looked at the public comments we got and we treated them with a certain degree of respect, if you will,” Duncan says.

The proposed plan met the short-term goals of saving money, increasing reliability, providing earlier service and putting buses on Riverside Drive, Duncan says. But, the vast majority of the roughly 160 comments received were negative.

“People were passionate about keeping the Nugget Mall. People were passionate about keeping service into (the University of Alaska Southeast). People were passionate about downtown service, and the overall feeling is it’s better to keep the service the way it is now than to change it according to how we’ve proposed to make the changes,” says Duncan.

Assemblywoman Karen Crane says Capital Transit service does need to be altered, but the proposed plan isn’t quite right.

“As much as I want to see some of the changes that were made, I’m not ready to adopt the plan that was put before us at this point,” Crane says.

The Assembly cut $100,000 from Capital Transit in the most recent city budget. Crane says she’d be willing to look at putting money back to provide better service. Other Assembly members, like Kate Troll, echo that sentiment.

“In the next iteration that staff goes through I would like for them to have the leeway of looking outside the $100,000 cut and come back to us with solutions that might actually still have a fiscal note and let us wrestle with the pros and cons of addressing that,” Troll says.

Deputy City Manager Rob Steedle says before staff starts the process over again, they need more direction from the Assembly.

“I think it’s time for you as a body to state what is most important to you, what goals you’re trying to achieve and then get back to the drawing board,” Steedle says.

Duncan says he’ll work with bus drivers to look at route structures and possibly moving away from 30-minute intervals in the schedule.

Full disclosure: Kirk Duncan serves on the KTOO Board of Directors.

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