For the first time, Carson City residents can ride a local bus system from the downtown transfer point on North Plaza Street to the Carson Tahoe Regional Medical Center, loop through the city and then south to the Carson Valley Plaza - all for free.
Passengers intently studied the color brochures detailing the four routes and the major stops Monday morning before jumping aboard a bus bound for Route 1, 2A, 2B, or 3. For all of October, riders can take the bus for free. City officials said this gives passengers the option of trying out the service and figuring out where it stops and when.
The four green-and-blue 14-passenger Jump Around Carson buses are scheduled to arrive at about 200 bus stops hourly from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Each route has about 50 stops.
The neighborhood stops - which could change depending on necessity - are marked with laminated paper signs on poles. The permanent signs will be up in a few weeks, city Transit Planner Mike Dulude said Monday outside the federal building at 705 N. Plaza St., which is also the transfer point for all four buses.
The federal building was the site of JAC's opening reception, which was complete with green and blue balloons stirring in the wind, music from the Carson City High School jazz band and a champagne toast.
Dulude, who is 6 foot 9, bent on one knee to listen to Mitzie Uramoto, who has lived in Carson city since 1961 after immigrating from Japan.
"I was wishing to have a nice public transportation like San Francisco, but they've never had," she said. "I do not know how to drive the car and after I lose my husband I couldn't get around easily. I am so happy that I get to ride the JAC."
Several aspects of JAC didn't come together until the last minute. Dulude said the 400 color brochures with the route schedules did not arrive until late Friday, and it has some typos. Consultant Nancy Pearl, who works with the Carson City Regional Transportation Commission, said the neighborhood stops were still being finalized on Saturday and Sunday. The drivers are also getting to know the routes.
Bob Gray is one of those new drivers, along with driver-in-training Debra Nelson-Mares. His bus was labeled for Route 2A, but was actually driving Route 3, for demonstration purposes.
Uramoto climbed aboard this bus along with seven other retirees. In the first five hours, Gray had transported 10 passengers.
Sandy Tebeau, a 27-year Carson City resident, said the city's previous transit program (dial-a-ride) was often difficult to operate. She said fixed routes have been needed in Carson City.
"I would stop right here," said the 27-year Carson City resident as the bus passed the Small Blessings Christian Preschool on Division Street. "I volunteer at the Brewery Arts Center."
Nancy Adams and Dolores Pummill, who have been friends since high school in the 1950s, decided to take the bus to Douglas County and eat some lunch before heading back.
"We're just riding to get used to the routes and to see where it'll take us," said Adams. "I expect I'll be using it occasionally be get to the hospital and the college."
Edna Hernandez doesn't know how to drive, so the bus will be a way for her to get out of the house. Her husband, Manuel, questioned the driver on stops near their Fifth Street home.
"I want to learn how to take the bus so that I can find work," she said.
Buckled into a vinyl seat, Uramoto's feet didn't even reach the floor. She became a U.S. citizen two years ago, just in time to vote in her first presidential election. She took a Nevada Appeal article on the bus system out of her purse and studied it. She had highlighted several paragraphs with a blue marker.
"I am enjoying riding the bus," Uramoto said. "Now I don't have to bother anyone else for a ride."
"And gas is so high right now," said Nelson-Mares, the driver-in-training.
"I don't mind the high gas prices," Uramoto answered, "because I don't know how to drive the car."