People Mover holds open house ahead of major changes to bus system
Exactly a month remains before People Mover launches a completely new system of bus routes for the city of Anchorage, and on Saturday the public had a chance to learn more about the impending changes.
During the annual Heart Walk at the Delaney Park Strip, People Mover handed out fliers and bags filled with information about the new routes and schedules set to take effect on October 23. Bart Rudolph, planning manager with the city’s public transportation department, said it will be the biggest change to Anchorage’s bus system in decades.
“As far as every route number changing, the frequency of every route changing, it is the biggest change in 20 years,” Rudolph said. “Nothing’s been this revamped in 20 years.”
The new system will reduce wait times at some of the city’s busiest bus stops to 15 minutes, making it easier to catch transfers and faster to get across town. Rudolph says the new system focuses on the more populated parts of Anchorage, and eliminates some of the routes that were less frequently used.
“Some routes are disappearing so people who are living along some existing routes are going to have to walk a little bit more for service but if you live in an area of town that is more densely populated, the bus system is getting a lot better with more frequent service,” Rudolph said.
In some cases the new bus system could mean longer walks to the bus stop, and some parts of town could be harder to reach. For example, Route 60, which runs between the Old Seward Highway and Huffman Road, is being changed to a commuter bus which will only run during rush hour.
"You would have to go all the way over there in the morning and wait for the next bus all the way at night just to get home," said Pamela Stevens, who travels to Huffman by bus frequently.
Rudolph says the new bus system was designed over the course of a year based on thousands of comments submitted from the public. He says so far the feedback has been mostly positive.
“We started having public conversations on trade-offs basically what’s more important for you? Do you want to get to your destination faster or do you want to have less of a walk?” Rudolph said. “So we started there. People said they were willing to walk a little bit more for more frequent service.”
"If you need to make a change or try to get somewhere, if you miss the most recent bus you shouldn’t have any longer than a maximum of 15 minutes to wait and that’s not too bad.," said John Britton, who stopped by People Mover's tent to learn more about the new bus system.
People Mover provides about 12,000 rides a day, but says its ridership has declined by about 18 percent since 2010.