BY: Jedediah R. Smith
Have you ever tried to take the bus from one side of Anchorage to another? On a good day, I could ride my bike from Downtown to the Dimond Center faster than it takes to ride the People Mover. The operative phrase is “on a good day.” But if it is snowing or there is black ice on the road, or if my car won’t start, then taking the bus is a viable alternative.
I’m lucky not to live in Eagle River. Residents there lost their People Mover option during last year’s city budget process.
In a time when the nation is considering new climate legislation and policies, Anchorage should be moving toward a stronger system of public transportation as a viable option. Instead, Anchorage is facing reduced service.
The best buses in Anchorage come by once every 30 minutes. Some of them only come by once an hour. That’s not very convenient. And now the city wants to cut back even further. As Seth Meyers would say, “Really?!”
Public transportation is not simply good for the environment. Alaskans need it to get to work, to health care appointments, and to go shopping. In 2008, according to it’s website, People Mover delivered over four million rides during the year.
Gas prices were high though, approaching nearly $5 per gallon, and we’ve since seen some relief. We can’t be so gullible in believing the price of gas won’t go up again. And when it does, we need to be prepared, with simple transportation options.
We cannot continue to chip away at bus service. People depend on it to get to work, school, doctors appointments, and to go shopping. Cutting service on certain routes this year means we will have that much further to go next year to improve the system.
The State and municipal governments are making difficult budget decisions this year. The good news is the nation is moving toward promoting public transportation as a viable alternative, giving it more attention now than ever before. Anchorage could benefit from this. The Anchorage Assembly is taking public testimony on the budget on Nov. 9 and Nov. 23. You can show up to testify or you can simply contact an Assembly member and tell them that you value public transportation.
We should be growing routes, making it easier to get around town on the bus. Instead, we are making it more difficult by cutting routes. People Mover is fighting to maintain the limited service it offers. If you ride the no. 1, 3, 13, 36 or 102 busses, you will be affected. Attending public testimony can only help the cause and hopefully persuade the Assembly to pertain the remaining routes.
If you support People Mover, and live in Eagle River, contact Assembly member Debbie Ossiander and let her know you would like to see service restored there. If you live anywhere else in the city, contact a member of the Anchorage Assembly and tell them you value public transportation and feel it is a necessary part of making Anchorage a more livable community.
Jedediah R. Smith is a freelance writer, bicycle commuter, public transportation supporter and advocate.