Senior ride services on the Kenai, Kodiak
December 1, 2021 | View PDF
Traveling in the dark can be treacherous this time of year, but now many transportation systems are being kicked into motion. The COVID-19 pandemic left many stranded at home for weeks and months at a time. However, this year can be different. Last month, Senior Voice reviewed ride services in the Anchorage area. This month we look at the Kenai Peninsula and Kodiak.
The Kodiak Area Transit System (KATS) has been in operation since August 2000, under the administration of Senior Citizens of Kodiak Inc. (SCOK). The system began as a coordinated transportation system used only for local non-profits, but seven years ago it became a public system.
It is a dial-a-ride system. You may call 24 hours ahead for door-to-door pickup.
"We have a public schedule, but due to COVID these town stops are no longer being used. Once we are cleared a bit from COVID, we will re-implement town stops," said Pat Branson, CEO of Senior Citizens of Kodiak, Inc.
SCOK contracts with First Student, which operates the town's school buses, to handle dispatch, operations, maintenance, fuel and insurance for the KATS buses, which SCOK owns. KATS operates Monday through Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and weekends from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The KATS schedule is operational all year long with no changes.
"Since KATS is the only handicapped accessible transportation in Kodiak, it is vital in getting people to shop, all appointments, jobs, community events and social service programs," Branson said. "Without KATS, people would be isolated and not have a way to be inclusive in our community. Taxi rides are expensive and not handicapped accessible."
KATS is growing each year in popularity. SCOK does get annual funds from the city but "the Kodiak Island Borough does not give us funds for KATS," said Branson. However, there is optimism that the system will be getting federal funds to help expand and improve KATS, she said.
At The Kenai Senior Center, rides are available from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Masks are required. At the Kenai Senior Center, doctor appointments take precedence over other rides, and appointments must be made 24 hours in advance. For doctor appointments in Soldotna, it is recommended that clients schedule pickup times for at least 30 minutes prior to the appointment.
Rides are available to and from the senior center for lunch. The Kenai Senior Center is funded through grants and donations, so there are some costs involved. Suggested ride donations are $3, $6 and $10 and based on roundtrip from various locations. Ride scheduling is made through the front desk by calling 907-283-8211 or 907-283-4156. It is possible to make a stop during your ride. Additional stops are a donation of $3. It is recommended you mention you need to make stops when you make your appointment.
Those running the Kenai Senior Center understand that not everyone's budget is the same and drivers will never ask if you have paid for a ride. A suggested ride donation is $3 for Kenai city limits, $6 for Kalifornsky Beach Road, and $10 for Soldotna.
The Nikiski Senior Center is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. It will assist with booking transportation, but currently it is not offering transportation through the center, said Sasha Fallon, Nikiski Senior Center Executive Director. The center helps older adults sign up for local transportation through CARTS (Central Area Rural Transit System).
"Unfortunately, there have been barriers such as confusion with scheduling requirements, limit to one stop per ride etc.," said Fallon. Subsequently, the current transportation option is not a great fit. Older adults in the rural Alaskan community need to be able to go to town for shopping, for joining community outings, as well as attend appointments and more, Fallon said.
Recently, Alaska Cab announced that it will not be providing waiver service transportation for seniors. "Losing a local transportation provider will create dire straits and we are attempting to apply for additional funding needed to implement our own transportation service as soon as possible," said Fallon.
CARTS and Alaska Cab have been a public transportation option in the Nikiski community for years. However, transportation needs for older adults are not being fully met, but Fallon hopes that will change. "Transportation for seniors should be easily accessible, with low to no barriers, considering the needs of our seniors foremost," said Fallon.
More information is available at http://www.nikiskiseniorcenter.org.
Anchor Point Senior Center
At the Anchor Point Senior Center, Executive Director Julie Otto said the center is offering transportation to and from town, 40 miles one way to Soldotna/Kenai once or twice per week, depending on the need.
"I don't think it would be considered extensive, as we only go to Kenai/Soldotna and there are many more places than that on the peninsula and beyond," Otto said. "Transportation issues are huge for the senior community, as many of them are concerned about driving the 40 miles one way to town in the dark and cold of Alaska's winters. We have transported several people to and from doctor appointments. These are appointments that would not have been made possible if we hadn't taken them," she said.
The current transportation programs have been around for many years, however, COVID did affect the programs as older adults needed help with simple things like errands.
"We increased our transportation service and offered pickup services for groceries, and medication so they did not have to travel and risk getting the virus," Otto said.
For more information, visit http://www.anchorpointseniorcenter.com.
Cooper Landing Senior Citizens Center
The Cooper Landing Senior Citizens Center has two buses and a van. The buses are equipped for full accessibility, accommodating any older adults with walkers or needing wheelchairs. These transportation services operate solely with the help of volunteer drivers.
Prior to the pandemic, the buses went on Wednesdays to Soldotna and Kenai for doctor and dental appointments, grocery shopping, and wherever they needed to go. Since the pandemic began, the bus is only used upon request, with many seniors still limiting their group activities, according to a spokesperson for CLSCCI.
Cooper Landing Senior Citizens Corporation, Inc. (CLSCCI) has fared well through the pandemic and is proud to have transportation to serve local seniors, especially during the winter, with the closest supermarket more than 45 miles away. The buses will pick up seniors in Sterling en route to Soldotna and Kenai, said the spokesperson.
Seward Senior Center
Seward Senior Center plans to offer, once drivers are hired, ADA compliant transportation, with a 24-hour reservation system to start, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., year-round. Transportation had stopped on March 13, but the center is resurrecting accessible services. Rides are offered on senior shopping day, post office runs (there is no home delivery) and medical appointments for individuals who rely on a wheelchair for mobility.
For more information, call 907-224-5604.
Pandemic hits Homer's transportation system
Homer Senior Citizens, Inc. was incorporated in November of 1973 as a non-profit corporation, and for the past 44 years has been a leader in providing programs for area seniors. However, Homer is currently lacking in reliable senior transportation due to fallout from COVID-19.
"We have been shut down, reopened, and shut down so many times," Homer Senior Center Executive Director Keren Kelley said. "Currently, seniors must go to the Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) to pick up cab vouchers, and there are not enough of these to go around," Kelley said.
This is causing great concern at the senior center this winter, Kelley said. A lack of transportation means much more than just missing one appointment. "Transportation in our community is essential. We are spread out and during the winter it can be very dark, icy and harsh," said Kelley. "Homer Senior Citizens, Inc. would like to be a transportation provider, but grant funds do not exist. Having a grant lowers the cost passed on to the consumers," Kelley said, noting that there are still many hurdles to overcome as the pandemic lingers.
For more information, call 907-235-7655. The Administration Office is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. to 4 p.m. Or email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org