Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire 
A Capital Transit bus drives near the site of the new Mendenhall Valley transit center on Mall Road. The center is set to open Nov. 7.

Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire A Capital Transit bus drives near the site of the new Mendenhall Valley transit center on Mall Road. The center is set to open Nov. 7.

Transit center set to open, bus routes to change

Bus’ a move.

Big changes are on the horizon for the city’s bus system.

The City and Borough of Juneau’s Capital Transit is planning to open its new Mendenhall Valley Transit Center located off Mendenhall Mall Road on Monday, Nov. 7, which will include a new parking lot, bike lockers, electric vehicle chargers and outdoor shelter for riders. The city also announced it will be updating its route schedule after six years of little to no change. The new schedules can be found on Capital Transit buses and online at https://juneaucapitaltransit.org/ under “news.”

Routes are changing in part due to the new Valley Transit Center, which will require buses to change their routes to accommodate the new center. According to Matt Carpenter, the lead operator for Capital Transit, the routes have also needed an update for a while.

“Most of our routes haven’t received any sort of update since 2016 and we know that our buses are having a hard time staying on schedule because the timetables are out of date,” he said. “We’ve been missing a lot of transfers so this was a good opportunity to take a look at how to get our timetables more realistic to get the buses back on schedule.

Carpenter said the core service routes — Route 1 in Douglas, Route 3 and 4 in the Mendenhall Valley — will be very similar to what they are at currently, and said people should only expect a few minutes of change.

The more impacted routes are the “commuter routes” Carpenter said, and also noted that the express service will also see a more significant change.

Richard Ross, the transit superintendent said the city conducted a rider survey in May asking for feedback from riders to figure out which routes should change and what should stay similar and found 76% of riders surveyed wanted a simpler network with more frequent service as opposed to more specialty commuter routes.

Ross said the change in routes is also due to the lack of drivers, something that Capital Transit has been struggling with and continues to struggle with. Juneau’s hiring challenge is similar to other ongoing struggles to hire and retain drivers elsewhere in the state and nation.

Ross said Capital Transit currently has five vacant positions which have caused pauses for certain routes included in the change but did not cause the change. He noted the new schedule is based on the same budget as before.

Alec Venechuk, the project manager for the new center, said the Valley Transit Center will now give people a place to park their vehicles if they commute to the center, something that the previous transfer center at the Nugget Mall did not have. According to Venechuk, the project was funded by a $2.4 million Federal Transit Administration grant that was awarded to the CBJ.

“I think it will provide great connectivity from the valley to the rest of Juneau and Douglas,” he said.

The actual building won’t be set to open until a few more weeks after Nov. 7, but once open, there will be a public bathroom open for use. However, Venechuk noted the building does not include an indoor waiting area for riders and said it is much smaller than the downtown transit center. He said the new building will mainly be used as a break room for drivers.

• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at clarise.larson@juneauempire.com or (651)-528-1807. Follow her on Twitter at @clariselarson.

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