Monthly Archives: February 2009

I love the bus

Our acting mayor, Matt Claman, and AMATS have been working lately to advise cutting People Mover bus funding. This makes me mad, because ridership is up and good public transportation is key in a city. We need more buses and service, not less. Buses lower traffic congestions. They give students, non-drivers, the elderly, the disabled, the poor and non-car-owners (like me) much greater mobility. They allow a reduction in provided parking requirements, which allows for beautiful, pedestrian-friendly streets like you see in Europe or Montreal, or any city that developed before the automobile. Anchorage is a strip mall, parking lot, asphalt wasteland. I love it, but it needs some help. It needs better public transportation, and better winter trail maintenance and pedestrian and bike trail improvements.

I grew up squarely middle class in Anchorage, where the car is king. We owned two. I took the yellow bus to school, but rarely was on the city one. As a young adult, I was nervous about buses. I happily rode subways and trains and other public transportation in the states and abroad, because I knew they would stop at my stop automatically, and it would be clearly marked. I worried that with a bus: I wouldn’t know when I was where I wanted to be, and I wouldn’t know when to pull the cord. I have since realized that you can talk to the bus driver when you get on, and they will help you out. I have grown to love buses – really to prefer them to cars when they go where I want to go, and the schedule can be worked with. In the winter they are warm and cozy inside. They are safe (picture a ping pong ball colliding with a bowling ball and you can see why it is ok that you don’t have to wear a seat belt). Because they are safe, you can hold your baby on your lap, instead of strap them screaming in the car seat. They are cheap. I get a free bus pass with my university tuition, otherwise I could buy a year pass for $540, MUCH cheaper than a year of car insurance, much less gas, repairs, etc. You don’t have to scrape the car windshield on frosty morns. You get exercise on the (hopefully) short walk to the bus stop. I also like the rolly-bouncy movement of a bus, I’ve written (bad) odes to it, that I won’t publish here! I love not being in charge of the driving, and accountable for traffic violations etc (I’m a safe driver, but I’m a worrier). Here are some more from the People Mover website:
Reasons to Ride

1. It’s cheaper than a gallon of gas.
2. It’s convenient. With over 1,100 bus stops there’s sure to be one near you.
3. All buses are fully accessible.
4. It’s healthy. Get more exercise by walking to bus stops or Bike-to-Bus.
5. A Class Pass makes school field trips affordable.
6. Reduce your carbon footprint.
7. Arrive to your destination refreshed, not stressed.
8. With 16 routes, chances are one is going your way.
9. Time spent on the bus can be used to catch up on work, read or just relax.
10. Feel more connected to your neighbors and community.
11. Tax benefits can boost your bottom line.
12. Parking your car for a few days a week can significantly reduce its wear and tear, help keep mileage down and value up.
13. Books on Buses
14. It’s cheaper than a vanilla latte.
15. Adopt-A-Stop
16. Never have to worry about finding a parking space.
17. U-Pass
18. Seniors ride free on Wednesdays
19. We offer free Travel Training
20. We offer other alternative commute options to get you going and save you money.

I highly suggest that you buy a month bus pass, or if you can’t swing that a couple day passes (to take away some of the worry off paying for each use) and experiment. Usually, the hardest thing about taking the bus is doing it the first time – what time do I need to catch it? Where? Where do I get off? Once you force yourself to go through the schedule and figure it out, the next time is cake. I was also nervous about putting my bike on the front of the bus the first time, but it is easy, trust me. The People Mover web page has all the information you need for Anchorage bus service, other communities have similar setups.

Also – write Mayor Claman and the Anchorage Daily News and tell them we need more – not less – funding for People Mover.

Two cool Spenard Blogs

Trying to find information on the, rumored bad, fate of the spenard road bond (for needed improvements and quieting of my local road) I ran across a couple of nifty blogs from the ‘hood.

Spenard Road – Great lists/links on the side of all the local spots and some suggestions for improvements etc.

Life in Spenard – artsy and beautiful photos

Seems everyone in Spenard who blogs prefers a bike to a car 🙂

There are others but I haven’t had time to check them out yet!

Killing a watt

I did end up purchasing a kill-a-watt meter, so anyone who wants to borrow it let me know, I’ll have all I can investigate with it investigated pretty soon.

I did all the things we plug in in our apartment. Some usage:
Fridge – ~1kwh/day (~365 kWh/yr – not too bad for a fridge)

Massage chair – avg of 50 watts, though just using the ‘knead’ function in place is 30 watts, using the percussion function (my least favorite) is 90 watts. 10 minutes is a very long massage for me.

Microwave – ~1700 Watts! (but not used for very long at a time)

Toaster – ~800 watts (also short time of and infrequent usage)

I also investigated ghost loads – the microwave (even though the display isn’t on when it is off) draws a watt or two while plugged in, one lamp I have draws a fraction of a watt when off but plugged in (??), Gil’s iphone charger draws a watt or two if plugged in, even without the phone on it. The toaster, massage chair, and other lights do not draw any measurable power when plugged in but switched off.

I am happy about the massage chair. It was a hand-me-down gift from a friend, and it is lovely, but I worried about power use. Nice to know that it draws about the same as a couple of compact fluorescents, and I rarely use it for a full 10 minutes on a given day.

All together, I calculated that we use less than 2 kWh/day, just as at our old apartment where we were separately metered.

Common power includes the washer (~.3 kWh/load from the literature) and dryer (~2.5 kWh/load from the literature), a 13 watt bulb that comes on when it is dark (quite a span in the winter), hall lights (less than 100 watts total) that should only be on when someone is in the hall, but get left on (need to get the motion sensor switch for them), and a couple of pumps for the boiler (not sure on their size).

All together, about 1 load of wash is done per day, and slightly less than one dry per day, on average. Of that, about 3 loads of wash a week are our family’s, and one or two drys (I air-dry my personal laundry…lets just say not everyone in my family does). SO with the other common area stuff, thats probably about an extra 1kWh per day or so.

Considering that on my last bill, the average usage was 73 kWh/day, and we used about 3 kWh of that (give or take a kilowatt for common area stuff), I’d say I should get an electrician in and separately meter the units as soon as possible!

Crazy food lady wannabe

Ok, first on my Riot for Austerity, or quest to reduce emissions by 90%, is an accounting of my present food situation(see the last post). This is because food is one of the hardest categories to be sustainable at here in Alaska. The short version of the rules is that 70% should be local, 25% bulk dry items, 5% or less conventional wet items.

Personal results are highly seasonal. This week I ate a local salmon fillet from my freezer. I made and ate coleslaw with two local heads of cabbage (from my CSA, stored in my fridge – had to pull off all the outer rotting leaves first). The coleslaw also involved non-local, non-bulk yogurt, raisins, apple, and sunflower seeds. I ate non-local birthday cake and pizza and natural soda and fruit at my kid’s b-day party. I ate hunter sticks (mostly non-local meat) and fruit and beans yesterday – all non-local, not bulk dry. I always eat bulk oatmeal for breakfast (w/ local fruit in a couple months of the summer, then non-local fruit). Right now I’d say I’m at (optimistically) 15% local, 15% bulk, and 70% non local wet for the winter. I can do better. I need to stock up on local potatoes and carrots, if I can still find them, eat up the rest of the salmon in the freezer and self-canned soup from my CSA and the rest of my stored cabbage. I bet I’ll be eating even more non-locally as we head into early spring though, until I find time to store more local food for winter.