Care-A-Van, Juneau’s paratransit service, is being rebranded as Capital AKcess, and some vehicles are already sporting the new name. The service may also have a new operator. (Courtesy Photo | City and Borough of Juneau)

Care-A-Van, Juneau’s paratransit service, is being rebranded as Capital AKcess, and some vehicles are already sporting the new name. The service may also have a new operator. (Courtesy Photo | City and Borough of Juneau)

Longtime Care-A-Van operator may lose bid to taxis

Paratransit service’s potential new direction draws letter of protest

Care-A-Van’s operator might change, but the service will remain.

The transit service for elderly people and people with disabilities could soon have a new operator pending a City and Borough of Juneau decision to award a contract for paratransit services to Juneau Taxi instead of long-time operator Southeast Senior Services, a division of Catholic Community Service.

A change of operators was recommended after proposals to provide the service from Juneau Taxi and Catholic Community Service were evaluated by an evaluation committee consisting of transit staff, according to a memo from the CBJ Purchasing Division.

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“We were baffled how Juneau Taxi scored higher,” Erin Walker-Tolles, Executive Director for Catholic Community Service, told the Empire in a phone interview Thursday.

Four unnamed evaluators almost universally favored Juneau Taxi to Catholic Community Service. Three evaluators rated Juneau Taxi higher, and one evaluator rated Catholic Community Service two points higher —scores fluctuated between 687 to 832 points.

A maximum score would be 1,000 points, according to a proposal evaluation form included in the city’s request for proposals.

Walker-Tolles said the social services agency is protesting the results, and has sent a letter of protest to the city.

A letter of protest is the first step in an appeal process with the city, said Mike Vigue, director for the city’s Public Works & Engineering Department.

Vigue said generally contracts are awarded to the highest-scoring proposal received in response to a request for proposal, but there is not yet a deal in place.

“We haven’t awarded the contract yet,” Vigue said. “We’re in that process.”

The program serves those who cannot ride Capital Transit buses. Paratransit is a service required under the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to the National Aging and Disability Transportation Center. Generally, in order to be compliant, public transit agencies that provide fixed-route service must also provide a complementary paratransit service to people with disabilities who can’t use bus or rail service.

The paratransit service must provide pick-ups and drop-offs within 3/4 of a mile of a bus route or rail station at the same hours of day at no more than twice the regular fixed-route fare.

“It’s a requirement because we have a fixed route,” Vigue said. “It’s not going away.”

New name

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The program is also heading toward a new name. It’s already being rebranded as Capital AKcess by the city — some vehicles are already sporting the new name.

Regardless of who is ultimately awarded the contract, Vigue said the actual vans used in the Capital AKcess program are the city’s property and not provided by the operators. That means cabs would not be replacing the vehicles used to transport the elderly or people with disabilities.

He said the city has a group of new vans for the program because the old ones had reached the end of their useful life, and they are waiting to be deployed pending settling on an operator.

“They provide the service,” Vigue said. “We provide the equipment.”

• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.

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