A cab ride from Billie Dailey's Soldotna apartment to Kenai Peninsula College normally costs $11. Monday it cost her $5. When she heard the price, she was surprised. Surprised, and disappointed.
Dailey is the first person to take advantage of the Central Area Rural Transit System (CARTS), a transportation brokerage that began service Monday. For $50, she received a punch card worth 20 rides. Each dot on the card entitles her to one ride within one CARTS zone and is worth $2.50. Dailey's ride spanned two zones and cost her two punches, or $5.
"Ten dollars a day to go to the college is not going to work," Dailey said, grimacing as she anticipated the round-trip cost of her journey.
Like any new program just beginning operations after years of waiting, countless hours of work and slogging through miles of red tape, the CARTS program is bound to encounter its share of bumps in the road.
Dailey, for instance, didn't know her trip would take her through two zones because maps aren't available yet.
Dailey's driver, Alaska Cab Company proprietor Brent Hibbert, said the new service will help people get around.
"I think it's going to work out real well to get where you need to go relatively easily," he said. "But you have to be able to plan your trips."
People wishing to use the CARTS service must schedule their trips 24 hours in advance and purchase a punch card before their ride. Drivers, both volunteers and paid providers like the cab companies, accept only checks or the punch cards, never cash.
CARTS coordinates rides for those who need them by matching people who call to request transportation with those who can provide it. CARTS users need to be ready "15 minutes prior to the scheduled pick-up time and up to 15 minutes after the scheduled pick-up time," according to its Service Guidelines brochure.
People accustomed to calling for cabs or hoping for a quick ride will have to alter their expectations. They will need to review CARTS policies, outlined in the brochure, and its maps, when they are available.
Taken together, these facts make CARTS seem less convenient than many other forms of transportation. It is.
However, the service offers transportation to people who might otherwise have few, if any, options for getting around. The elderly, who generally dread going out on the roads in bad weather, are expected to take advantage of the service, and people living in remote areas will presumably use it frequently. Other potential patrons include students and people with disabilities.
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