Recent changes to public transit create challenges for students

Since Oct. 23, People Mover has been operating with a new schedule and route system. The recent changes include extended hours, more direct routes and increased frequency of the buses. The change was designed to improve ridership and convenience for its users.

The decline in ridership of the buses, along with budget cuts, prompted these major changes to the system and its route designs, with good intentions of efficiency and relevancy in mind. The four major roads the People Mover travels on have reduced wait times to 15 minutes.

However, for some students at UAA, the changes have negatively affected how they get around Anchorage.

Budget cuts and a decline in bus ridership prompted new routes for People Mover, making getting to and from campus difficult for some students.
Budget cuts and a decline in bus ridership prompted new routes for People Mover, making getting to and from campus difficult for some students. Photo credit: Young Kim

Harry Kim, senior aviation technology major and frequent user of People Mover buses, feels the changes that were meant to be improvements have negatively affected his commute. Living on the south side of Anchorage, his neighborhood was one the many side streets that was cut from the routes.

Public buses are the main source of transportation to and from school for some students, and the new system, along with the winter weather conditions, created unsafe feelings walking long distances in the dark.

“The bus system was my only commute source. The reason why I chose my current residency was because I knew I could take the transit to get to work and school,” Kim said. “I was planning to save my money and utilize the transit system.”

Kim’s alternative forms of transportation have been Lyft, Uber and receiving rides from friends. However, they have proved more expensive than the bus, which he paid for with the use of his Wolfcard.

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The university is located near the center of the transit system, and with the use of Wolfcards and the U-Pass Program, students are able to use the public buses to go to many locations around town. This is made possible through the payment of the student transportation fee of $13.

“He was paying as much to get a ride to work and back as he was making in one shift working here,” Tim Flynn, Kim’s boss and Student Union operations coordinator, said. “That didn’t seem right or fair, I don’t want him to have to pay to work here.”

One of the biggest changes in the public transit system was the addition of more direct bus routes. This included fewer neighborhood stops in order to streamline travel and create faster rides for passengers.

Although feedback from outreach done by the Public Transit Advisory Board showed that many people were more willing to walk further than wait longer, other riders disagree.

“People who had a bus stop conveniently located within a couple blocks of their house before, now have to walk 20, 30 minutes in the snow and ice to get there,” Flynn said. “Students still pay [the transportation fee], and by taking away some of the routes, they are unable to get to the university easily.”

Another hassle that frequent bus riders are facing is having to take multiple connecting routes to get to their final destination.

A map of the new Anchorage bus system is posted on www.PeopleMover.org.