Juneau's complementary transit systems

Posted: Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Juneau's Capital Transit "fixed route" bus system is well-used and efficiently run. For those who need a more personalized form of public transit, Juneau offers two transportation options: Care-A-Van and the Taxi Voucher Program. Care-A-Van is for anyone age 60 and over and for persons of any age with an ADA card. The Taxi Voucher Program is for anyone age 60 or older and for persons of any age with a documented disability. Both allow the passenger to bring an assistant without additional expense.

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Care-A-Van is the paratransit service operated by Southeast Senior Services. Required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Care-A-Van complements the Borough's bus system and runs during the same days and hours as the bus system. The Taxi Voucher program, in turn, complements the Care-A-Van program by transporting persons who live beyond the Care-A-Van service area or who need a ride outside the hours of the bus system. It is operated by SAIL (Southeast Alaska Independent Living) with the assistance of Juneau Taxi & Tours which runs a lift-equipped cab.

Unlike the Borough bus, the Care-A-Van is a "demand response" system and does not run along a fixed route. Care-A-Van provides door-to-door service for individual passengers who, under the ADA, have equal access to the service regardless of the trip purpose. When an individual requests a ride, he or she asks for a specific pick up time at a specific location and to be taken to a specific location. Persons who have ADA cards issued by the Borough and who call at least the day ahead can expect to get the ride they request within an hour before or after the desired time. Since every passenger asks for an individual ride from a specific location at a specific time, each Care-A-Van vehicle and driver is scheduled at a distinct location around the Borough at specific times. This is why Care-A-Vans are sometimes seen with only one passenger in them. When the dispatcher/scheduler plans the rides for the next day(s), he always looks for ways for an individual Care-A-Van vehicle and driver to pick up other passengers along his/her route. This saves on fuel and can make the most of limited resources. While calling a day ahead is not required, it is encouraged so that scheduling can be as efficient as possible.

The Taxi Voucher Program has proven very handy for seniors and persons with disabilities, both for its convenience and cost-savings. Each voucher is worth $3.00 but costs only $1.20. Vouchers are the same as cash to the cab drivers. The Taxi Voucher Program was previously known as the Taxi Token Program. However, the old plastic tokens will expire on December 31, 2007 and cab drivers will no longer accept them. If people still have unused tokens, they can bring them to the SAIL office and exchange them for the new paper vouchers. The new paper vouchers will expire on June 30, 2008.

Application forms for the Taxi Voucher Program must be submitted in person at the SAIL office on Hospital Drive. If the applicant has been accepted into the Taxi Voucher Program, he/she may use the vouchers to pay the fare for rides to any location in Juneau at any time. Vouchers can be used to pay fares for rides only in Juneau and only with Juneau Taxi & Tours cabs.

Transportation is an essential part of maintaining one's independence. Persons wanting more information on these valuable public transit options should call 463-6194 (Care-A-Van) or 586-4920 (Taxi Voucher Program).

• Marianne Mills is the Program Director of Southeast Senior Services (SESS) which offers home and community-based services for older Alaskans throughout the region. SESS is a part of Catholic Community Service and assists all persons regardless of their faith.

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