News Updates

Grants give RIDE new, better buses

By SHANNON HAUGLAND
Daily Sitka Sentinel Staff Writer

Sitka Tribe of Alaska has received a $300,000 federal grant to replace a RIDE bus with one that has better accessibility.

It’s the second year in a row the tribe has received a grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration to replace the RIDE buses that have exceeded their useful lives, said STA Transportation Director Gerry Hope.

STA has ordered a new 22-passenger bus with last year’s grant, and plans to order another of the same model with this year’s grant. Both are wheelchair accessible. They will replace 22-passenger buses built in 2009 and 2010.

“We have an aging bus fleet and with an aging bus fleet comes very high maintenance costs,” Hope said. “We’re very happy to have received this funding this year and last year to replace our aging bus fleet.”

The tribe currently has six buses serving three routes, plus a special “paratransit” van service serving those with disabilities (NOTE: actually, Catholic Social Services/Swan Lake Senior Center manages the paratransit service; and Center for Community oversees both services). All vehicles are maintained through a contract with the local automotive service shop, TMW, Hope said.

The FTA provided some $5 million to 36 tribal transit projects in 14 states in this grant cycle. A total of $1.8 million was given to 10 tribal organizations in Alaska.

“These grants will help American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments provide transportation in rural areas to connect tribal residents with jobs, health care and other opportunities, ” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao in a news release.

The grant to STA noted the role the RIDE bus service plays in the public’s accessing jobs, schools, health care and ferry service in and around Sitka.

“The Federal Transit Administration is committed to helping tribal residents with their transportation needs,” said FTA Acting Administrator K. Jane Williams, in the announcement on the grant. “We’re proud to support investments in their transit systems, which provide access to essential services.”

Hope said plans are also in the works to replace one of the smaller buses through a grant from the state.

“We’re fortunate that the Federal Transit Administration and state Department of Transportation recognize the need, and we’re getting these upgrades,” Hope said.

Among the improvements in the latest bus ordered for the RIDE is a feature that will make it easier to step onto and off the bus.

“We’re looking at these kinds of features that are important, in my view,” Hope said. “We’re excited to be able to offer that.”

Hope expects it will take about a year for this first new bus to be delivered, and the second will arrive a few months after that.

The RIDE began in 2002 through a partnership between Center for Community and Sitka Tribe of Alaska, and started with two buses covering two routes.

In its first year, it averaged some 65 passengers a day. That rose to 110 per day on average in the 2006-07 year. A third route was added in 2008, and today the RIDE averages some 220 per day. Hope said the bus service is a popular option for tourists, and he expects this coming summer will be even busier.

Most of the funding for operating the RIDE comes from grants, which requires a more than 40 percent match of cash or in-kind contributions.

Last year the tribe received a $25,000 grant from the city, and is hoping for the same support this year.

Assembly member Richard Wein commented today he believes the bus service is worth supporting.

“The city needs to recognize the service RIDE performs for the citizens of Sitka,” he said. “If it’s $25,000, it’s a small price to pay.”

(Assembly member) Kevin Knox agreed, “I think we should be supporting transit. … Most communities spend four times as much.”

Find the RIDE on Apple Maps

Did you know you can now find the RIDE on Apple Maps? You can find schedules and route maps for the RIDE on Apple Maps. We’re helping keep you connected to public transit in Sitka.

Check out the new video about the RIDE

Thanks to Artchange, Inc., for making this video about the RIDE as part of its 14 Miles series of stories about Sitka.

Please keep bus loading zones and bus stops clear

In recent weeks there have been several drivers parking in the bus loading zone in the Crescent Harbor parking lot or at marked bus stops downtown. Please don’t do this, especially since the safety of our riders depends on us pulling the buses into these marked spots so riders can safely board or get off the buses. The Sitka Police Department does ticket vehicles parked in bus-loading zones/bus stops, as you can see in the photos from Crescent Harbor. There were at least seven vehicles ticketed the morning of Aug. 16, 2018.

At Crescent Harbor, the entire row of parking spaces next to Harbor Drive is designated as a bus loading zone from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on week days. Even one car next to the bathrooms can force our buses out into the driving lane. The only time you are allowed to park there is on weekends and holidays.

We also have several people parking in marked bus stops in front of the Sheet’ká Kwáan Naa Kahídi on Katlian Street or the framing shop on Lincoln Street. These spots are for buses only (not charter fishing vans). We need to get our bus completely out of the driving lane to pick up passengers, and it’s unsafe for our drivers to have to unload riders from the middle of the street.

Your help keeping these bus stops clear is greatly appreciated.

Please check our Facebook page for route updates

We don’t like it, but sometimes a bus breaks down, we get snow, or there is a construction project on one of our routes that impacts our schedule. Please watch our Facebook page for route updates. If there is a weather schedule/route change, it will be announced on our local radio stations before it shows up on Facebook or the website, or you can call the RIDE at 747-7103 for more details.

Find the RIDE on Google Maps

Want to know how long it takes to get from the ferry terminal to Whale Park with the RIDE? It takes 55 minutes, according to a search on Google Maps, http://goo.gl/nkjvzE. To enter a query, go to https://www.google.com/maps (or use the Google Maps app on your cellphone). In the upper left corner of the screen will be a blue diamond that says “Directions” when you click on it. After you click on it, look for the bus icon (third from the left, between the car and the walker) and click it. Then type where you are and where you need to go in the two lines beneath it. Easy peasy