Traffic passes through the “Y” intersection of the Kenai Spur and Sterling highways on Saturday, May 7, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. The Kenaitze Indian Tribe this week announced plans for its fixed-route bus service, which would run between Nikiski and Sterling. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion file)

Traffic passes through the “Y” intersection of the Kenai Spur and Sterling highways on Saturday, May 7, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. The Kenaitze Indian Tribe this week announced plans for its fixed-route bus service, which would run between Nikiski and Sterling. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion file)

Kenaitze announces plans for public bus route

Kahtnu Area Transit will offer service between Nikiski and Sterling

The Kenaitze Indian Tribe announced plans for its fixed-route bus service on the central peninsula this week, which should be fully operational by early next year.

Brandi Bell, who manages transportation for the tribe, said Tuesday that the bus service has been in the works since she took her position in 2017.

“It was pretty impressive to see the transportation need on the peninsula,” she said. “This has been a passion project of mine.”

Bell said the tribe implemented a door-to-door service to help members without consistent rides make appointments and run errands, but that wasn’t enough.

“We were still seeing that there were gaps in the services,” she said. Currently, two of the main alternatives to private transportation on the central peninsula include Alaska Cab and the Central Area Rural Transit System (CARTS).

The new fixed-route bus is called the Kahtnu Area Transit — Kahtnu meaning “Kenai River” in Dena’ina — and it will run between Nikiski and Sterling.

The initiative has been backed by the cities of Kenai and Soldotna, according to previous Clarion reporting. The Kenaitze Indian Tribe was awarded a $1.1 million grant from the Tribal Transit Competitive Program of the Federal Transit Administration for the Kahtnu Area Transit.

Bell said the tribe is still in the planning stages, and hasn’t worked with municipalities to determine the best places for bus stops along the route. Additionally, she said she and her team need to meet with a consultant to determine the prices of rides, but said that she expects bus fares to be a “low fee.”

The transit system should be up and running in early 2023, Bell said, and begin test runs this winter.

Both tribal members and nonmembers will have access to the service.

Reach reporter Camille Botello at camille.botello@peninsulaclarion.com.

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