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.
16. Never have to worry about finding a parking space.
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.