Assembly to consider transportation plan


August 2, 2018

As Haines’ population ages, the borough and local human services organizations expect demand for accessible transportation to rise, putting pressure on an already stressed system.

The Haines Borough took over organizing the “Coordinated Public Transit - Human Services Transportation Plan” previously handled by Juneau-based Catholic Community Services, operator of the Care-A-Van ride services offered through Haines Senior Center.

The plan is required by state law to be updated every five years and must be presented to the state Department of Transportation and other granting organizations to qualify for funding.

Borough planner Holly Smith wrote the draft plan with help from service providers including Southeast Alaska Independent Living, SEARHC, Lynn Canal Counseling, Haines Assisted Living, REACH. Inc., Chilkoot Indian Association and Chilkat Indian Village.

Representatives from several of these organizations met with Smith last week to discuss the draft plan and identify “gaps in service” before the plan goes to the assembly for approval in late August.

Jennifer Marschke with SAIL said the plan focuses on helping people who are disabled or elderly but should also consider “the big picture for what we want for Haines” as far as public transportation.

“Although our plan right now is geared toward the DOT funding…the transportation plan is supposed to be geared toward transportation in Haines as a service,” she said. If sometime in the future Haines wants to implement a public transportation system, the plan can identify basic infrastructure already in place.

Demand for transportation services is expected to increase in the next five years as Haines’ population ages. Although Haines’ population has declined by about 200 people since 2008, its 60-and-older population has increased by 51 percent, according to U.S. census data. Haines is the oldest community in Alaska with a median age of 49.3 years old, while the statewide average is 34.9,

The Care-A-Van service is available to provide rides for anyone over 60 years old, or someone with a “documented chronic or temporary physical or mental disability,” to doctor’s appointments, the grocery store, bank, or other locations in town Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Rides must be scheduled in advance, and reservations can be made for rides Friday through Sunday or during the evenings. The suggested donation for the service is $2 per roundtrip.

But SAIL staff said it’s very difficult to schedule a Care-A-Van ride during lunch time when demand is highest. Marianne Mills, director of Southeast Senior Services under Catholic Community Services, said the organization also doesn’t have enough funding to pay part-time or full-time salaries for more drivers or to buy additional accessible vehicles to regularly cover evenings and weekends.

Ryan Barber of the Chilkoot Indian Association said the organization is in the early stages of applying for a transit planning grant worth $25,000 but does not currently offer transportation for tribal members.

The Chilkat Indian Village offers rides twice a day from Klukwan to town, but the vehicle is not wheelchair accessible.

Smith said she included other entities with vehicles in the plan like the borough, Haines School, local taxi and shuttle services, and private tour operators.

“Although these companies have vehicles, I think there’s maybe one in a list of 100 vehicles that is ADA-accessible,” Smith said.

One complaint is that the borough shuttle service meant to transport cruise ship passengers and other visitors across town, as well as the town’s only taxi, are not wheelchair accessible.

Lynn Canal Counseling, through SEARHC, has a vehicle that can transport only LCC clients. REACH can only offer rides to people with developmental disabilities. There is no public transportation available for the general public, and there is no service for people who live on Mosquito Lake, Lutak or Mud Bay Roads.

Mills said the community would need to decide if it wanted to expand the Care-A-Van’s service area. “The farther away you go from town, the less that vehicle is available for the larger population within the town,” Mills said.

Sierra Jimenez of SAIL said other rural communities in the Lower 48 allow people to use school buses for transportation. Other ideas in past years were to build covered bus stops with a light to alert passersby that someone needs a ride, or to develop a ride-sharing program.

The group will meet again in early August to finalize the draft and prioritize strategies to improve gaps in service.

Strategies to improve transportation services include supporting and researching grant funding sources, promoting coordination and collaboration between human service agencies, updating the borough’s planning commission, and partnering with the Chilkat Indian Village and Chilkoot Indian Association.

The draft plan will go before the assembly on Aug. 28.


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