SMOOTH SAILING – A troller cruises across Sitka Sound during a hazy sunset Friday evening. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

Sitka’s RIDE, Care-a-Van Return, with Changes

Sentinel Staff Writer

After a four-month shutdown Sitka’s public transportation service will resume operation Monday with anti-virus precautions in place, officials said.

Service by the RIDE and Care-A-Van was stopped on March 20 to mitigate the coronavirus threat.  

Connie Sipe, transport program administrator at the Sitka Center for Community, said today that a key goal in the reopening of the transportation program is to provide safe service, and to evaluate ongoing needs from there.

“It’s a commitment that we are restarting service. And the side question is, what is the need? What is the demand? But we are committed to restarting the service,” Sipe said.

She noted that public transit in Sitka is a collaborative effort among the Center for Community; the Senior Center, which runs the para-transit network; and the Sitka Tribe of Alaska, which operates the scheduled bus service, the RIDE. 

The RIDE and Care-A-Van buses will not look as they did when service shut down in March, Sipe said.

Plexiglass shields have been installed to protect drivers, and new measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 include a face mask mandate and a regular cleaning schedule for the vehicles. Disposable masks and hand sanitizer will be available on the buses.

Community Ride Buses are parked off Katlian Street this afternoon. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)


Sipe added that reducing risk is a high priority for local public transit.

“Everybody is trying to reduce risks. And that’s why the mask mandate is so important,” she said.

STA adopted the new safety protocols by resolution in June.

The buses and vans will be limited to half their passenger capacity in order to promote proper distancing.

“Some riders may be denied service when the bus is at 50 percent capacity. If a bus just passes by a stop, please understand the bus was at capacity,” a Sitka RIDE press release states.

Sipe said she expects the lack of tourists will keep the number of riders lower than in a normal summer.

“We think our regular riders will be back, (but) we think that some people who may have ridden will stay at home more,” she said.

While the state’s virus-related lockdown mandates list public transit as an essential service, Sipe said Center for Community shut down the RIDE in March largely out of concern for older and more vulnerable riders and employees.

“Everybody was in a shelter-in-place, staying home, not going out much. And we decided that it would be better for the sake of our drivers and the public that we shut down service,” she said.

One of the main additions to the buses is the plexiglass shield to protect drivers. She added that a bus is awaiting barge shipment from Tacoma with a variety of virus protection features.

Buses will be cleaned nightly, but Sipe said the cloth seats on the RIDE buses present a challenge.

“We’re going to be trying to clean the buses as well as we can,” Sipe said. “The Care-A-Van buses will be fogged with a disinfectant every night. The fixed route buses will not because we realized they have cloth seats and we don’t have long enough for them to dry,” she said.

Sipe noted that official guidelines for safe public transit are not set in stone.

“It’s like so many things – there aren’t clear guidelines. We have CDC recommendations for transit, they recommend that we should run the buses as less than full capacity ... It will be hard for the drivers to pass up somebody on the side of the road who they would like to pick up,” she said.

Along with various physical safeguards, the Blue Line route will no longer run all the way to the Gary Paxton Industrial Park, and instead will terminate at Whale Park.  With that exception, schedules and routes will remain as they were before the pandemic shutdown.

“We have to see what happens, how much ridership is back, what the demand is,” Sipe said.

More information is available at Care-A-Van rides are by appointment only, at 907-747-8617.

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Alaska COVID-19
At a Glance

(updated 8-4-20)

By Sentinel Staff

The state Department of Health and Social Services has posted the following update on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alaska as of 12:30 a.m. Tuesday.

New cases as of Monday: 59

Total statewide – 3,394

Total (cumulative) deaths – 25

Active cases in Sitka – 17 (12 resident; 5 non-resident) *

Recovered cases in Sitka – 15 (11 resident; 4 non-resident) *

The state says the cumulative number of cases hospitalized is 136.

To visit the Alaska DHSS Corona Response dashboard website click here.

* These numbers reflect State of Alaska data. Local cases may not immediately appear on DHSS site, or are reported on patient’s town of residence rather than Sitka’s statistics. 



Welcome to the Sitka Sentinel's web page. In order to make the Sentinel's news more easily available during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have taken down the paywall to access articles on this page. Just click on an article headline to read the story. 

March 23, 2020



For the duration of the COVID-19 disaster emergency declared by federal, state and local authorities, the Sentinel is taking additional measures to reduce virus exposure to its employees and contractors as well as to the public, while continuing to publish a daily news report for Sitka.

To the extent possible, Sentinel news and sales staff will be working from home. For the protection of our carriers, home delivery of the newspaper will be stopped effective Tuesday, March 24.

The Sentinel will continue to publish on its website Access to the website will be free to all users. The Sentinel will also produce a print edition Monday through Friday. It will be available to all readers without charge, at locations throughout town.

Initially, these locations are those where the Sentinel's newspaper vending machines are already in place. The coin mechanisms will be disabled or the doors removed to permit easy access. The Sentinel will work with the stores where the paper is usually sold, to designate a place inside or outside the store where the free edition can be made available.  

Home delivery subscriptions are on hold, and after the end of the disaster emergency, subscriptions will be extended at no charge for the number of days that there was no home delivery.

The Sentinel will make its print edition available to the public as early in the day as possible. with all personnel taking precautions to prevent spread of the virus.

The Sentinel is calling upon its customers to observe the COVID-19 emergency precautions already in place, particularly in maintaining a six-foot social distance from others at newspaper distribution sites.

Following is the statement issued by the Sentinel on March 16, stating the Sentinel's emergency procedures, which remain in effect.

The Sentinel office at 112 Barracks Street is closed to the public. We encourage people to use the phone, email or the U.S. Postal Service as much as possible.There is a slot in the front door of the office for ads, news items and payment checks. Emails may be sent to  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and the phone number is (907) 747-3219.                                                                          

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August 2000

The School Board Tuesday discussed district policy on head lice. At present, students found to have head lice are kept from school until all lice are removed. The revised policy allows students who have nits to remain in school, with information on treatment and a nit-removing comb to be sent home with them.

August 1970

Legal notice: Sealed bids will be received ... for furnishing and installation of siding on the City
Garage, located on Halibut Point Road. ... City of Sitka, Alaska Fermin Gutierrez, Director of Public Works.