People Mover works to upgrade their technology as ridership increases

People mover bus pulls up in front of Constortium Library. Photo by Matthew Schmitz.

On Sept. 6, Anchorage People Mover posted to its official Facebook page that the transportation line “is FINALLY upgrading to new technology this fall.”

This technological upgrade had been in talks for a long time as their current technology is around 20 years old, said long-time People Mover employee Bart Ruldolph in an interview.

These upgrades were expensive, Rudolph said, but were made achievable when the Federal Transit Administration sent the business an application for a $4 million grant. He said the new technology has been purchased and is in the process of being installed. 

This technology includes “new computers and GPS tracking equipment on the buses,” said Rudolph. The new system will update bus locations every 5 seconds as opposed to the current system of updating every minute, he said. The app will also become personalizable by one’s common routes and send quick SMS alerts for delays, detours, and service interruptions, such as harsh weather or construction. 

These updates will hopefully solve some recurring issues that People Mover riders have experienced. 

“Sometimes I've had it to where they never show up, I've waited for like 45 minutes before and it just never came”, one user wrote on Yelp Reviews in 2019, “They've made me late to work a few times.”

With “real-time bus tracking” riders will have access to an accurate reading of the arrivals running through their routes which will “help them manage their time and plan their trip more effectively and efficiently,” Rudolph said. 

These improvements coincide with increased ridership this fall, as more Anchorage youth now rely on the public bus system for transportation to and from school. 

On Aug. 16, a few days prior to the start of school, People Mover announced free rides for all middle school and high school students for the 2022-23 school year. A valid Anchorage School District ID will grant any student a free ride. 

This deal, as part of the Youth Connect Program, was contracted in response to the relentless school bus driver shortage in Anchorage. The district is limited by 70 bus drivers and only able to serve 7,000 out of 20,000 school bus riders, according to KTOO. 

People Mover is also looking for new drivers to achieve full employment within the service. There has been a 10% driver vacancy for two years now, said Bart Ruldolph. He said this shortage has not reduced services as current bus drivers work overtime, but occasionally a trip or two can be missed. 

Hopefully, these new changes in technology can promote easier transportation among Anchorage citizens and even help draw more bus driver applicants.

More information regarding these changes can be found on Anchorage People Mover Facebook or the Municipality of Anchorage website. 

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