This story was originally written for The Anchorage Press.
People Mover is debuting its new route system come Oct. 23, which will have more consistent stops on major roads and fewer in neighborhood areas. The change hopes to deliver riders more efficiently to their destinations.
Anchorage resident George Hyde’s main source of transportation is the bus, which he has been riding for the last six years. He typically takes Route 75 to go to work and to get groceries, or Route 60 to go downtown or to the Dimond Center.
Hyde hopes the new routes provide solutions to a currently existing problem.
“If you miss a bus, you often need to wait anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour for the next one to show up. This can be a disaster if you need to get to work and you wind up missing your only shot,” Hyde said. “This is the big thing that the new system is aiming to solve, and my route is thankfully among the routes that’s upgrading to a faster schedule.”
Even though the new system is beneficial for Hyde, he worries that is might be an inconvenience for those who live outside of the major neighborhoods of Anchorage.
“I can only imagine what it would be like for someone who lives on a different side of town, who now has to walk even further to the nearest bus stop,” Hyde said.
Route numbers are changing in the new system, with new routes re-numbered 10, 20, 30 and 40. These four routes will have buses stopping every 15 minutes during the weekdays from 6 a.m. – midnight, but Route 40 will deliver riders to Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport until 2 a.m.
Route 10 travels between the Downtown Transit Center and the Muldoon Transit Center via Midtown, UMed and Northern Lights Boulevard.
Route 20 travels between the Downtown Transit Center and the Alaska Native Medical Center via Third and Fourth Avenues, Mountain View, Northway Mall, East High School and UMed.
Route 30 travels between the Downtown Transit Center and the Muldoon Transfer Center via Cordova Street, 15th Avenue, Alaska Regional Hospital and DeBarr Road.
Route 40 travels between the Downtown Transit Center and the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport via Spenard Road.
On the weekends, buses will arrive every 30 minutes compared to the hour long wait prior to the change. People Movers will be running between 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. on Saturday and 8 a.m. – 7 p.m on Sunday.
Jedediah Smith, board member on the Public Transit Advisory Board, says that People Mover’s change was based off a choice of more coverage or frequency. People Mover ridership began to steadily decline in 2010 and a change needed to be implemented.
The question was, should more buses be driving around Anchorage, or should buses be consistently stopping more often.
People Mover wanted to change their system while still staying at the same level of funding.
“It’s sort of this debate, do you want to be all things to all people or as many people as you can, but not do it very well? The whole premise was to make changes that were necessary and not ask for more money,” Smith said.
There are 13 total routes in the new system, where buses will drive more direct paths as opposed to driving through neighborhoods. Three of the routes are referred to as “neighborhood routes,” which are Mountain View, northeast Anchorage and the Government Hill area. Buses run every 30 minutes and will be operated by smaller buses to reduce noise, be fuel efficient and “provide a means for people to access the new frequent network,” according to the Municipality of Anchorage website.
Commuter Route 92 which runs from the Eagle River Transit Center to downtown Anchorage will only run during rush hour. Same goes for Route 91, which travels between the Dimond Transit Center to the Huffman Business Park and Oceanview Drive.
There are eight new transfer points in the route system, which aim to move riders to their connecting bus more efficiently instead of transferring them to the downtown station.
Nile Morris, UAA student, encourages others to use People Mover as an alternative mode of transportation, especially since university students, faculty and staff can ride the bus for free by showing their Wolfcard.
“I hope we see an increase in individuals beginning to rely on the bus route as a feasible and supplementary means of transportation, especially college students. The university is already inundated with vehicles,” Morris said.
This new transition of routes will affect all those who ride the bus. To see how your route is affected you can check out People Mover’s website for maps and more information.
“I think it’s going to take people a little while to adjust to this, it’s some big changes. But like all things, we’re going to do the best we can with it,” Smith said.