People Mover 101: How to make the most of your free bus pass

The University of Alaska Anchorage has provided free bus passes to anyone with an active Wolfcard for over 20 years. As long as you are currently enrolled at UAA, no extra steps are required to use it, and there is no limit to the amount of usage. Simply swipe your Wolfcard where you would swipe a bus pas, and enjoy your ride.

This is beneficial to countless students, from those on a tight budget who choose not to spend their money on gas, to students tightening up their workout routine by riding their bicycles more often. Taking the bus is a tried and true way to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions and the outflow of money from your wallet.

If you’re thinking about riding the People Mover for the first time, it is important you know what supplies to bring, how to schedule your ride and how to ensure your safety.

  1. Supplies

The most essential item for riding the People Mover is your bus pass. Be sure to have your Wolfcard in an easily accessible place, like your pockets, so you are saved the trouble of fumbling around for it when the bus arrives. Digging around in your bag for your bus pass delays not only you, but every passenger from getting to their destination. It is common courtesy to have it ready and more convenient for you.

If you are planning on being out for more than a few hours, consider bringing a sensible bag. Practically, the bag should be large enough to fit a portable water bottle, a spare sweatshirt and any other items you may need to bring with you to your destination. Overly large bags can be a burden, and overpacking for the People Mover makes it more difficult to keep track of belongings. Bags with multiple strap options, such as backpacks or duffel bags, are an option many passengers employ. If you have small items in your bag, consider using a bag that closes securely with a zipper or button to prevent them from falling out on the bus.  Leaving a little extra space in your bag is always a good idea as well. You never know when you may be given extra things to carry, or see a must-have item at a bargain.

It is very important to bring a fully-charged smartphone. Smartphones contain GPS systems that can prevent you from getting lost. They are also a link to emergency services and family members. If your phone has difficulty holding a charge, consider downloading your music and putting your phone on airplane mode or bringing a portable charger.

  1. Schedules
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Bus schedules are so easy to access, you might already have one in the palm of your hand. It is standard for smartphones to have map apps pre-installed — all that is required of the user is to open the map app, type in the address of the desired destination and click the transit option. The application will show you suggested leave times, the bus route number you need to take, the estimated length of the ride and the location of the nearest bus stop.

The People Mover also has its own app that gives a more detailed look at the bus scheduling system, as well as a website that allows you to print or write down a bus schedule prior. Physical People Mover schedules can also be found near the Student Health and Counseling Center on campus, or at a local municipal building.

Follow the “one bus early rule.” Bus drivers are not machines, and neither are any of the other people or moose on the roads. Accidents and delays can happen. Sometimes, a bus will even arrive early. If it is extremely important that you get to your destination at a certain time, leave with the intent to catch the bus before the one you want to ride.

Be sure to account for walking times when scheduling a bus ride. Crosswalks are typically a longer wait in one of the directions. One of life’s most crushing defeats is being stuck on the wrong side of the road as the bus races by. Every pedestrian walks at their own pace, so plan according to your own speed.

  1. Safety

Trust your gut. If you sense danger, walk over to the next bus stop. Bus stops with benches, overhead coverings and nearby stores are as convenient to you as they are to criminals, so they are not always safer. If anyone at a bus stop harasses you, do not respond, do not make eye contact and walk away. Walking a few extra blocks is a small price to pay for not being subject to violence.

Use the proper courtesy signals when crossing the road. If you are about to cross at a crosswalk and a driver looks like they may turn, hold up your hand with your fingers together and palm upright and flat. Wait until they acknowledge you, then cross the road. Gently close your fingers into your palm to thank the driver when you reach the end of the crosswalk. Offensive gestures are not courtesy signals.

Only cross at designated crosswalks when the pedestrian light is on. Impatience can lead to injuries or death. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Corporation, 6,988 non-motorists died from motor vehicle crashes in 2017. Running across the street to catch the People Mover may seem like a good idea at the moment, but a bus ride is not worth your life.

A popular bus stop for students who ride the People Mover located outside of the Wendy Williamson Auditorium. Photo by Robert Gant.

For more information about the People Mover and Wolfcards, visit peoplemover.org or contact UAA commuter services at (907) 786-1213.