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Work of heart

Posted: Monday, March 13, 2006

Work of Heart is a column devoted to spotlighting certain nonprofit organizations, the heart of area communities.

CARTS:

The Central Area Rural Transit System Inc. (CARTS) is a community solution for area public transportation needs. CARTS is a demand and response rides brokerage serving the communities of Kenai, Soldotna, Kasilof, Sterling and Nikiski.

Implemented after a long planning process which involved many in area communities, CARTS was created. It is a nonprofit organization, incorporated in March of 2000 and began delivering rides in September of 2000. It’s the first and only ride brokerage in Alaska.

“Because of CARTS, people formerly on welfare can get and keep jobs, disabled individuals are free to move about the community living better lives, and seniors are no longer limited in their lives by road conditions or darkness,” said Jennifer Beckmann, CARTS executive director.

The projected user need was between 2,000 to 3,000 rides per month. The demand has exceeded the projection and averages 4,400 rides per month — at times it provides 200 rides a day. Due to high demand, CARTS contracts out rides to Alaska Cab, Peninsula Transportation Company and Ionia, Inc.

The office hours are from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. These are the hours to call and reserve a ride for the next day. General rides are provided from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday. Rides for work trips are 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The number of zones traveled determines the charge for a ride. The central peninsula is divided into 13 zones. Each zone traveled through costs $2.50. For example, a ride from Sterling Elementary School to Mountain View Elementary School would travel through 5 zones for a one-way cost of $12.50.

Drivers do not sell punch cards or handle money. A rider would need to purchase a punch card for $12.50, $25 or $50 from the main office. This can be completed by mail or by stopping by their office.

“Public transportation is expensive,” Beckmann said.

In addition to the funds generated from the ride fares, CARTS receives money from other sources including federal Transit, state Department of Transportation, the municipality of Soldotna and Kenai Peninsula Borough. Some funds are targeted for specific populations. However, all persons in this area are eligible to use its services.

In addition to Beckmann, the CARTS administrative team includes Jenny Wetzel, executive assistant; Betsy Hawkins, operations coordinator; and Jessica Koch, operations assistant. There also are five drivers Bob, Tony, Dave, Tim and Jake. CARTS had an advisory board made up of representatives from area agencies. These advisory partners meet quarterly.

“The peninsula population base and geographic expanse presents tremendous transportation problems, which CARTS has worked to address. While you have to plan ahead, it is possible to get to work, school, shopping, the doctor, etc ,” Beckman said. “Thirty-one percent of rides are taking people to and from work or work-related training. Many parents also drop their children at daycare on their way. CARTS has made it possible for people to have reliable, affordable transportation that was not available before.”

For more information or to request a free rider’s guide, call 262-8900, stop by their office at 43530 Kalifornsky Beach Road or visit www.ridesalaska.org.

This column is sponsored by Bridges Community Network and is written by Linda Tannehill, Bridges board member and Cooperative Extension home economist.



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