CARTS plans to bring public transportation back to the southern peninsula

May 7, 2018

Transportation consultants Heather Menninger and Michelle Poyourow present on public transportation options.
Credit Renee Gross, KBBI News

Public transportation on the southern Kenai Peninsula has dwindled over the past year, but there may be a plan to bring some services back.

Two taxi voucher programs ended their services since last summer. The Central Area Rural Transportation System, or CARTS, ran one of those programs.

CARTS hosted a meeting with various stakeholders in Homer Friday to see how the nonprofit can provide more public transportation services. It’s in the midst of developing a five-year public transportation plan for the south peninsula communities.

Representatives from different community organizations including South Peninsula Hospital, Kachecab and the Independent Living Center participated in the discussion.

Most stakeholders expressed interest in bringing back CARTS’ popular taxi voucher program, which allowed southern peninsula residents to buy taxi rides at discounted rates.

Michelle Poyourow, a transportation consultant with Jarrett Walker and Associates, is helping CARTS develop its plan. She said there is a catch to taxi voucher programs

“The downside of it is more expensive on a per-rider basis,” she said. “You can only afford so many times to give out something that is fairly costly. The more the ride experience is customized around the individual person, the less of it you are going to afford.”

Poyourow pointed out a potentially cheaper option, which she called dial-a-ride. Residents could make a reservation for a bus to pick them up and drop them off. The service would allow several riders to share the bus to and from destinations, potentially cutting down on the cost of multiple vehicles that taxi voucher programs require.

Dean Sundmark with the Independent Living Center said both options are appealing.

“So if a person with a disability, if a person is a senior, if a person is going to the laundry mat and has a lot to carry, route to route, point to point, those are the most accessible options,” he said.

Poyourow said CARTS is also considering other options such a set bus route to Kenai. The Ninilchik Traditional Council currently provides a similar service between Homer and Kenai on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, but Poyourow said CARTS could supplement that service.

Some at Friday’s meeting were concerned that another route-based bus service would not provide the same accessibility as other options, but others say it could be better for local workers.

“There is some kind of need for employees to go to and from work around town and something in a transit system would be very helpful,” Karin Marks said, a member on Homer’s Economic Development Advisory Commission 

Poyourow said CARTS may consider multiple options. The nonprofit plans to unveil its transportation plan this fall.