Homer gains new public transit plans

• New system would employ taxis, cut fare costs and provides opportunities to residents
By Alida Dunning
Homer Tribune

Feasibility didn’t pencil out to gain a bus service for Homer residents, but the town should see public transportation soon.
The Homer City Council passed a resolution Feb. 15 in support of reduced cab fares within Homer and the acquisition of two wheelchair-accessible vans to be available round the clock. The program is expected to be in place by June 2011.
According to Michael Neece, a member of the Homer Coordinated Transportation Committee, anyone will be able to buy tokens for cab rides within the Homer area for $3, instead of the going rate of $7. Committee member Kim Burrows said the boundaries of the area where the reduced fares apply include the end of the Spit, top of Westhill Road, Baycrest Shell Station, top of Easthill Road and Kachemak Gear Shed. Each token will be good for a cab ride to one destination. The program is expected to save money not just for Homer residents, but for several public-service agencies that currently provide cab vouchers for their clients.
The plan includes leasing a wheelchair-accessible van to each of the two local taxi companies. Patti Boily, also on the transportation committee, said the vans and the cab subsidies will be paid for with state and federal funds, and matching grants from local organizations who are currently spending money to provide cab vouchers for their clients. The Central Area Rural Transportation Services agency has access to the grants and will be guiding the implementation.
“They’re going to be all-wheel-drive ADA approved mini vans,” said Boily. “We have no accessible vans right now except through senior citizens and the hospital, so they’re only available during business hours. They’re not available at night or on the weekends.”
The cab companies will operate, maintain, insure, fuel and license the vehicles, and have them available on-call. “After a year or a certain amount of miles, the title will be released by the DOT and the companies would own them,” said Boily.
“With the new vans, people will be able to go out to dinner and do social activities on weekends or any time they want,” Burrows had said at the Council meeting.
The resolution states that Homer human service agencies are successful in purchasing services for their clientele from the local cab companies. Several agencies that use the current voucher system have voiced support of the program: Independent Living Center, South Peninsula Hospital, The Center, the Alaska Department of Labor, the Division of Vocational Rehab, Seldovia Village Tribe and Chugachmiut. “Right now they’re spending a lot of money on taxi service to their clients,” Boily said. 
Neece said ideas for public transportation have been floating around Homer for years. “I was thinking about a bus system in the ‘80s. I was one of three hundred or four hundred people sitting on the spit working for Seward Fisheries with no car.” He said the idea of using cabs was like a light coming on.
“We kept changing ideas … trying to find a mechanism by which this could happen. Who’s going to step forward to run this thing? Nobody. So you run down the list and you end up with ‘Oh, cab companies work all the time.’ He said using the cab companies is a cost-effective way to fulfill the need for 24-hour van service from Anchor Point to McNeil Canyon.
“You’re not going to have to get somebody out of bed, pay them an hour this way, an hour that way, because the cab companies are always on call. That’s part of their job.” He pointed out that the cab companies will be covering the costs of maintaining the vehicles, and that they must adhere to rigorous safety standards required by the Department of Transportation. “You don’t have to build a whole new infrastructure for it, so there again, we save money. You can start to see the advantage to having a cab company do it versus setting up a whole new business. It’s a wonderful opportunity for us to study this without a great cost to the city or any one of the agencies.”
Kachecab owner Chris Fisher urged the council to pass the resolution. “It is an unusual approach. But since we’re already doing this for the Independent Living Center and other organizations, we’re trying this, rather than buying a whole new system, and then trying to finance buying it. Cabs get a few more customers and people will save more money,” he said. 
Cab owners don’t yet know if they will need to add new cabs to meet increased demand. “This is very experimental,” Neece said. “We’ll see, and we appreciate that the cab companies are willing to take that chance with us.”
The committee hopes to expand transportation services in the future. Neece talked about making McNeil Canyon a turnaround point for buses transporting kids to and from extracurricular activities. “Their parents wouldn’t have to make four trips into town. That’s a lot of money. It’s a work in progress.”
Neece said the City is still looking for outlets to sell the tokens. It’s expected that whoever sells them will receive one dollar per token, and for that reason it would be inappropriate for the cab companies to sell them, as some have suggested. “It’s federal funds and we have to account for everything. We’re hoping to use one or two established businesses, we’re hoping they’ll come forward.” Neece said it’s estimated 20,000 tokens might be sold in a year.
Josh Cooper, owner of Kostas Taxi, said the new programs will benefit a wide group of people, helping them get to college, grocery stores and any other Homer location.

Contact the writer
Posted by on Feb 23rd, 2011 and filed under Headline News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

18 Responses for “Homer gains new public transit plans”

  1. Maka says:

    There goes the rest of the moms and pops TAXI businesses out the door in NONPROFIT transportation. Are you crazy, taxi companies! Doesn’t anyone see the voucher system (no matter how you dress it up) is STILL TAXPAYERS MONEY, and that eventually the low rides will take over your business? What do the nonprofit people care how they wipe you out? They live off your hard work in the first place. Nonprofits are merely “high class” welfare recipients. Sure, $3 a ride beats the hell out of $7 a ride, but hey people, $3 is unreasonable in a world of high inflation. Have you checked the price at the pumps lately?

    So, let me get this straight. You cabbies work 12 hours a day (sometimes 7 days a week) for your pay. OUT of that pay comes your lease, your fuel, and any damages you may have caused on your shift. After all that comes out, you MAY get to go home in the winter time with $12 a night in your pocket. Out of that $12 comes the taxes you MUST PAY TO THE BOROUGH to keep your job.

    Those taxes you pay are what create the low cost vouchers. So, here you are working for nothing while the nonprofits use your taxes to steal your business (THAT YOU PAY FOR). What’s the sense of owning a business if you are paying for your competition to put you out of business with the lower rates they can afford because of you? Makes no sense at all. Besides, it’s illegal for nonprofits to compete with moms and pops.

    All that glitters IS NOT GOLD!

  2. ontheotherhand says:

    The ADA accessable vans will be of great service to those who are wheel chair bound. There is a need here. Do the Taxis have wheel chair anchors and lifts?

    • KacheChris says:

      Currently no. Due to the cost of the conversion, which involves lowering the floor of the van, adding a fold-out ramp, and making all the seats easily removable it has been something we have long wanted to do but couldn’t rationalize the expense. ($45,000-$65,000 depending on make and model, roughly twice the cost of a new Subaru) This grant will clear that hurdle for us, although we will have to adhere to strict standards regarding the insurance, maintenance, and availability of the van.

      • Maka says:

        Of course, Chris, you would stand up for your money. Shame on all the nonprofit agencies (specifically the Independent Living Center who writes grants for vans that rot on their wheels) and the two cab companies (Kachecab and Chux) who fell for the CARTS plan to take over Homers Transportaion needs with taxpayers money. Those people all black-balled the one transit service (Homer Northern Lights Transit) that studied the routes, acquired a 501 (c)3 nonprofit status from the IRS, catered to the mentally challenged, handicapped, and disabled (and even low income people – running the route to Anchor Point twice a day for one full year), tried to coordinate all the transportation in Homer (it failed), and now they are back to relieve all the cab services of their moms and pops status. Way to go nonprofits and Chris. Keep those cab wheels turning until the last cab dies. BTW Chris, that subsidy you are talking about, is my money too. What the hell do you think grants are made of … thin air? Excuse me, grants (no matter where they come from) ARE TAXPAYERS MONEY.

  3. Janet D says:

    Illegal for nonprofits to compete? What law is that?? In many cases if the nonprofits don’t do it no one will…

  4. Maka says:

    It is illegal for nonprofits to compete with the moms and pops tax paying businesses. The reason being, nonprofits exist off the taxes the taxpayers pay to the government. Those taxes paid cannot be used to compete against the people who paid them.

  5. KacheChris says:

    Once again Maka, you have displayed your own gross incompetence and complete misunderstanding of how these voucher programs work. The client pays the reduced rate, and the subsidy pays the rest, the taxi company gets the seven dollars. And it will be open to EVERYONE. You will not have to be on any type of government benefits to use this system. We are not getting a single dime from Borough taxes, you just made that up out of thin air. ,As is indicated in the article the money is coming from the transportation grants from the State of Alaska and the Federal government. They are not competing with us, they are working with us to try and provide low cost reliable transportation and hopefully a little economic stimulus. My drivers are excited about this plan, it’s a win/win for them and the customers. We know what we are doing, and you, as usual, just don’t get it. Please take the time to be in full possession of the facts before spewing more irrational diatribes at this program.

    • Maka says:

      Just in case you missed this one Chris … Of course, Chris, you would stand up for your money. Shame on all the nonprofit agencies (specifically the Independent Living Center who writes grants for vans that rot on their wheels) and the two cab companies (Kachecab and Chux) who fell for the CARTS plan to take over Homers Transportaion needs with taxpayers money. Those people all black-balled the one transit service (Homer Northern Lights Transit) that studied the routes, acquired a 501 (c)3 nonprofit status from the IRS, catered to the mentally challenged, handicapped, and disabled (and even low income people – running the route to Anchor Point twice a day for one full year), tried to coordinate all the transportation in Homer (it failed through black-balling moms and pops), and now they (CARTS with the implant ILC) are back to relieve all the cab services of their moms and pops status the way they did Bob Roper with Inlet Taxi in Soldotna/Kenia. That way, government will completely control the transportation like they’ve designed it to go. Way to go nonprofits and Chris. Keep those cab wheels turning until the last cab dies. BTW Chris, that subsidy you are talking about, that’s my money too. What the hell do you think grants are made of … thin air? Excuse me, grants (no matter where they come from) ARE TAXPAYERS MONEY.

    • Maka says:

      Chris says, “We know what we are doing, and you, as usual, just don’t get it.”
      Chris, I got it that first transportation meeting at the Seniors, remember that day?

      • KacheChris says:

        Yes, I remember the the way you and your cronies acted during those meetings. They were the most uncivil public meetings I have ever witnessed. I remember the slander and lies you printed about ILC, who actually do help hundreds of disabled persons, and about me and my drivers in your letters to the editor as well. And I remember that in the end it was your side that called in the Federal government, who flew their representatives all the way to Homer at taxpayer expense to try and resolve these issues. It’s laughable in the extreme that you would defend Northern Lights Transit when we both know they were trying to get the exact same grant money. And they didn’t get it because they refused to work with any other agencies as part of a coordinated system. They were the ones who didn’t want to work together and wanted to form their own parralell system bent on taking funding away from established public service agencies and deciding for themselves how it was to be used. And that is why they failed. Miserably. This plan is unprecedented and completely unique to Homer. It is not at all analogous to what went on in Kenai and Soldotna.

  6. Maka says:

    BTW Chris, for all our sakes, I hope it works.

  7. Laurie says:

    Indeed, we all hope it works!! You too may benefit from this service one day.

    • Maka says:

      Well that’s good Laurie. We’re all paying for it whether we use it or not. If you haven’t noticed, most people drive their own cars, pay their own insurance, gasoline, maintenance, etc., so this service is only good for a small percentage of folks who don’t drive.

  8. Maka says:

    Sir, I’m advocating for the Independent taxi drivers. Who are you advocating for?

    Nothing in my letters to the editor have ever been misleading nor have I lied about the nonprofit voucher system. Not anywhere in my letters did I slander or lie about you or your drivers, I wouldn’t do that. I do have a problem with the stats your present in your comments, that hundreds of people are being helped by ILC, but that’s not the issue here.

    It wasn’t the Federal government that came to Homer to coordinate the transportation either, it was (CTAA) Community Transportation Association of America, a Washington based nonprofit agency who recieved money for a grant written by Homer Northern Lights to help coordinate Homer’s transportation problem in a fair manner to everyone without the voucher system, which was originally established by the nonprofit ILC (taxpayers money).

    Homer Northern Lights did not fail. It withdrew it’s offer to help. Not one cent of taxpayer’s money went to establish Homer Northern Lights. Although HNL was also a 501 (c)(3) status like mential health, ILC, Hospital Area Board, etc. not one penny of taxpayers money was used to run that buisness for a full year. One grant paid out of taxpayers money for the “nonprofits” and “taxi owners” to “coordinate,”the transportation in Homer does not add up to, “They were the ones who didn’t want to work together and wanted to form their own parralell system bent on taking funding away from established public service agencies and deciding for themselves how it was to be used.”

    No such thing ever happened. Nothing got coordinated either, but, it wasn’t because Homer Norther Lights failed, as you say, but because plans had already been made for CARTS to come to Homer, along with the help of Independent Living center who would write grants for their own nonprofit transportation business. Those agencies are bent on controlling everything. I’m only trying to protect the Independent taxi drivers who you have completely sold out. You’ll “get it” in a couple years yourself, if not sooner.

  9. Maka says:

    CARTS, the nonprofit agency that used earmarks and grants (taxpayers money) to begin their business on the Kenai peninsula IS the same “The Central Area Rural Transportation Services agency has access to the grants and will be guiding the implementation.” that we all stood together through the OLD Transportation Task Force, to stop down (those uncivilized meeting you were talking about).

    Chris, you’ve brought CARTS in the backdoor, and you know it. That’s where your money comes from.

    • KacheChris says:

      Sigh. Here’s what you don’t get: CARTS could have come down here all on their own and started running a similar service to what they do in Kenai and Soldotna. That service obviously would have directly competed with the two remaining taxi companies. Instead, the non-profits you so despise were all strong advocates for making sure that any system that went up in Homer did not leave the taxi companies they have depended on out in the cold, it was they who insisted that the system rely on us. Since all of the unreliable fly-by -night cab companies had already folded up by the summer of last year, no they were not included in the plan that was formulated in the fall. You are “advocating” for a group of a people that DO NOT EXIST. Every taxi in Homer will be accepting these vouchers as payment. This isn’t CARTS coming to Homer, this is CARTS providing funding for a system that is absolutely unique to Homer and not based in any way on the very different system used by CARTS, which you can see at:http://www.ridesalaska.org/.

  10. Maka says:

    Sigh. Lets get one thing straight Chris . I DON’T DESPISE NONPROFITS, I know what they are for, and, I know what they are supposed to be doing for the public. One concept the public has wrong about nonprofit is, they are far from being NON-profit. Another thing they are not supposed to be doing, is taking business away from the moms and pops businesses, which CARTS has done by usurping the moms and pops taxi services on the Kenai Peninsula.

    CARTS is a nonprofit agency that was established on taxpayers money. It did not start from scratch and build like the moms and pops had to build their businesses. In fact, they stole business from the taxi services who signed to help them get started in Kenai/Soldotna. I know that for a fact as I have interviewed those people who DO NOT EXIST any longer. I also know what happened to Alaskab in Homer because of the voucher system through CARTS Homer representative, ILC.

    Truly, I’ve been advocating to keep money flowing to the honest bread earners and taxpayers that unknowingly support the nonprofits through their taxes. You know, it’s that group of people that DO NOT EXIST any longer in the taxi service in Homer because they have blindly become proxy nonprofit CARTS. Finally, for you, the fight is over as you have helped kill the independent taxi drivers. Job well done. I hope you are satisfied.

    It’s all good Chris, there’s not much taxpayers grant money left in the system for nonprofits to excel much further these days anyway, so it will be interesting to watch what happens to the future of cab drivers in unique Homer. That’s it. Just enjoy the money while you can.

Comments are closed

Like us on Facebook