SOLDOTNA (AP) -- The new public transit system on the central Kenai Peninsula is proud of its personalized service.
Central Area Rural Transit System Inc., or CARTS, connects people who need rides to a growing fleet of vehicles working under contract, such as senior center vans, cabs and private cars.
''It's not a bus. It's door to door,'' said Kristin Lambert, the program's executive director.
Financed largely by a combination of federal, state and local transit dollars as well as rider fares, CARTS is the first brokerage of its kind in Alaska. It offered its first ride Sept. 29 and has been growing rapidly, Lambert said.
''We had 200 rides in our first month, and we already have 200 more. And it's only the end of the first week'' of November, she said Friday.
The program, based on successful ride brokerages in rural areas of the Lower 48, segments the central Peninsula into 13 separate $2.50 fare zones. People wanting a ride within Soldotna, for example, pay $2.50. But if they want a ride about 10 miles to Kenai, they cross three zones and pay $7.50.
It's about half the price of a regular cab ride in the area, Lambert said.
Cab companies and other participating drivers are compensated by the nonprofit group. The bulk of the funding has come from a $500,000 federal grant secured by Sen. Ted Stevens, which is to be followed by a second grant of the same amount next year, Lambert said.
Riders don't pay cash when they hop into a participating car or taxi. They carry $20 punch cards.
The central Kenai Peninsula is the third Alaska location to attempt a rural public transportation system recently. But unlike the first two, Kodiak and the Matanuska-Susitna area, it opted for this brokerage model instead of setting up a small bus system, Lambert said.
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