Carson City has a public transit service named JAC – Jump Around Carson. While Muscle Powered focuses on human powered transport, public transit is part of the equation for reducing motor vehicle use and deserves some more attention.
JAC operates four regular routes, all of which center on the transit center in downtown next to the federal building on Plaza Street. Route 1 serves the northern part of town including the regional medical center, Routes 2A and 2B serve the northeast and northwest parts of town, with each being just the reverse route of the other, and Route 3 serves the southern part of town including the southern point near Fuji Park and Costco. Though JAC does not directly serve the Carson Valley Plaza and Walmart shopping areas (including Bike Habitat and Trader Joe’s), these centers are a reasonable walking or biking distance from the southern-most stop by Fuji Park. You can head west on Old Clear Creek Road and then south up the hill on Vista Grande Blvd to enter these shopping centers from that side.
The service is hourly from 6:30AM to 6:30PM on weekdays, and 8:30AM to 4:30PM on Saturday. It does not operate evenings or Sundays. A system map is available. Fares are $1 per ride with transfers, $0.50 for youth, disabled and seniors, and free for seniors 60 and over in the bus pass program, which is made possible by a grant.

JAC has improved its facilities quite a bit over the last 4-1/2 years since it was established. Old rattle-trap vans were replaced with new small buses, and these in turn will be replaced with even newer, larger buses with low floors for easier access. The buses all have front bike racks so you can extend beyond the routes with your bike. Shelters have been added to a number of commonly used bus stops, and a few of these have bike racks. Connections with the BlueGo 21X and RTC Intercity services are easier since they all now stop at the downtown transit center.
I’m an occasional user of JAC. The price is hard to beat, well below fares now charged in most cities. But I find the service too slow. In the northern part of town I can walk somewhere almost as fast as the bus, and in the southern part of town I can ride my bike almost as fast. I’m just not willing to wait an hour to catch the bus, and it takes about an hour to go the length of Carson from north to south. The service is used a lot by people who have enough time on their hands that they don’t feel frustrated by the slow pace, and by people who have no other transportation options, and for those two groups I’m very glad the service exists.
There are several things that I think would improve the service:

  1. Make routes 1 and 3 into a single route so that people do not have to transfer buses at the downtown transit center, and can stay on the bus. Two buses would run on this route, so the the service interval was the same.
  2. Create an additional express route which would serve only high use stops including North Carson Crossing/Walmart, the library and community center, the transit center and another stop near Fifth St, the Eagle Station area, and the south Walmart (I hate saying Walmart, but those are frequent destinations and they are places people recognize). This express route could run on a half-hour interval. By eliminating the many small stops which make the rest of the system so slow, this route could speed people to all the popular destinations while allowing connections to other routes to get them nearer their residence and to other less popular destinations.
  3. Extend the system to the industrial area of northeast Carson City near Arrowhead Drive. Even in the down economy, this is a significant employment area for Carson City, but no one there can get to work on the bus. This might be a commute hours route rather than a regular interval all day.
  4. Extend the service into the evening Monday through Saturday so that people attending community events can use the service, and offer limited Sunday service on route 1 which matches the BlueGo 21X Sunday service.
  5. Install ticket machines at the downtown transit center and other popular stops so that bus loading is not slowed by fare collection. These could also dispense the monthly passes, eliminating the need to go to one of the few sales locations.
  6. Install additional bus stop shelters. As I look out the window today at the rain, I know that having additional shelters would increase use, and it is during rainy and snowy weather than many people need to or would rather use the bus than drive.
  7. Clear the sidewalks and pads at each bus stop promptly after any snowfall. I know the city has tried to do this, but I don’t think enough resources are devoted to it to ensure that the stops are clear and usable. Many of the people who use JAC have disabilities which make a snowy bus stop challenging or impossible.
  8. Install bike racks at some of the more commonly used stops. Inverted-U racks for two bikes would probably meet the need.
  9. Create the database necessary to include JAC in Google Maps. I’ve used this capability (“by public transit”) in many of the cities I travel to, and it always makes getting where I want to go so much easier.
  10. Added 2010-02-26: Add bus times to all the bus signs. Regular users know these time, but occasional users will not, and someone who just sees the bus stop and wants to use it won’t even know how to find out, so posted times will encourage use.

What are your ideas about JAC? Do you use it? What is best about it? What would you change? (This is not a place for whining, please be constructive or your comments will be deleted.)
JAC also operates paratransit in Carson City, operates Wednesday-only bus service to Virginia City (new this year), cooperates with BlueGo to offer the Spooner Express 21X commuter service to South Lake Tahoe seven days a week (new last year), and cooperates with Washoe RTC to offer the weekday commuter service called RTC Intercity to Reno.