Capital Transit is planning to open its new Mendenhall Valley Transit Center across the street from the Mendenhall Mall in July, and when it does the schedules of bus routes are going to have to change, and transit officials are asking the public what they’d like to see from the city’s buses.
Open houses were held Wednesday and Thursday and Capital Transit has posted a survey to its website and will be soliciting feedback from the public until April 29. Survey respondents can choose to have their names entered in a raffle for a free annual bus pass or a $200 gift card to Fred Meyer. Only one of each prize will be awarded.
On Thursday transit officials were at the Downtown Public Library to take questions from members of the public.
“It’s not a system overhaul, but we have to make changes to the timing,” said Denise Koch, Deputy Director for the City and Borough of Juneau’s Department of Engineering and Public Works. “We have to shift things around and that presents some trade-offs and choices.”
Some of those trade-offs include things like longer overall travel times but with more time to allow for riders transferring bus routes, Koch said, more frequent routes or routes specifically focused on commuter travel. Transit officials are not planning any new routes, Koch said, with the possible exception of an express route between the Mendenhall Valley and downtown Juneau transit centers.
Construction on the transit center is currently underway on Mendenhall Mall Road between the Asiana Gardens restaurant and Heritage Coffee Roasting Co. shop, and is expected to open this summer, Koch said.
Agaki Jim, 20, took the survey at the open house Tuesday and said she uses the bus almost every day.
“Mostly I would enjoy being able to just come straight downtown because I have an appointment that I go to every day,” Jim said.
A direct bus between the two transit centers — what Koch called a “super express” route — is one of the options transit officials are looking for feedback on.
Construction of the center costs about $2 million and is being funded through a Federal Transportation Administration grant, said Alec Vanechuk, Capital Transit’s project manager for the center. The city provided local match funding with the roughly $1.2 million purchase of the land from the owners of the Mendenhall Mall, Vanechuk said.
The new center will include shelters for riders and a public restroom as well as an indoor breakroom for drivers, fully enclosable bike lockers and over 30 parking spaces, some with electric vehicle charging, for Park-and-Ride users. The current transit center is located behind the Nugget Mall and has no amenities for riders or drivers.
The center will eventually include charging capabilities for electric buses, but transit officials couldn’t say when that work would be fully completed. Because Juneau is a rural transit center, the city doesn’t have direct receipt authority for federal grant funding, said Richard Ross, Capital Transit Superintendent. That means that grant money has to be given to the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities who then passes it on to capital transit, Ross said, and that process can take some time.
Without the funding on hand, Ross said the city is unable to place an order for the equipment meaning completion of the center’s bus charging infrastructure is likely at least two years away.
Capital Transit is looking to expand its charging infrastructure as it looks to add more electric vehicles to the fleet, Koch said.
The city currently has only one electric bus and has a grant pending for seven more. The city’s electric bus has experienced mechanical issues, Public Works told the CBJ Assembly in January, and its battery has had trouble holding a charge during routes in winter months.
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