People mover map
After months of studying Anchorage's bus routes, transit officials say they've decided on a major revamp aimed at making it easier to catch the bus in the city's most populated areas at a cost of fewer neighborhood stops.
Officials published maps of the new system Tuesday morning. At first glance, the maps look like the city has fewer routes and less coverage.
But there's a trade-off. On major roads, buses will be arriving much more frequently. Many routes are transforming into straight shots between two points for a faster trip instead of winding through neighborhood streets.
Some buses will come every 15 minutes compared to an hour now on most runs — though that means fewer stops overall and more walking for riders, which may be difficult in winter.
At a news conference in the People Mover maintenance shop off Elmore Road, Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz touted the new system. He was joined by transit and union officials and representatives of Alaska Regional Hospital — a major employer — and the nonprofit Cook Inlet Housing Authority.
"It's an exciting time for us to try something new, because the thing that was old wasn't getting the job done, " Berkowitz said. "It's not BUS-i-ness as usual."
When no one immediately laughed, Berkowitz added: "It's a pun."
Returning to the business at hand, Berkowitz said that if more money comes in, either from the state or federal government, the city can expand the new network to reach even more people.
In the new system, all of the route numbers will be changing. Four new "frequent routes" — re-numbered 10, 20, 30 and 40 — will run along Northern Lights Boulevard, DeBarr Road and 15th Avenue, as well as through Mountain View and Spenard. On top of that, more buses will run every 30 minutes.
And there's now late-night airport service — Route 40, with frequent service through Spenard, will deliver riders to Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport between 6 a.m. and 2 a.m. on weekdays. Weekday service on all lines will run from 6 a.m. to midnight. Weekends will also gain service, with buses running between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturday and 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Sunday.
The expanded hours are in part aimed at accommodating more people with jobs that start or end outside of regular business hours, officials said.
Commuter routes to Eagle River and South Anchorage will preserve some service to the parts of the city with the lowest ridership, using smaller buses to cut back on fuel costs. Smaller buses will also serve "neighborhood routes" in Mountain View, northeast Anchorage and Government Hill-Fairview.
South Anchorage Assemblyman John Weddleton, who owns Bosco's Comics on Spenard Road, spoke after Berkowitz at Tuesday's news conference. Weddleton said he supported keeping some South Anchorage service while making it easier for tourists to travel from one end of Spenard to the other.
The changes are set to take effect all at once on Oct. 23 — a fast turnaround for a People Mover system eager to get more people on the bus. Amid years of declining ridership and shrinking budgets, transit officials embarked early last year on an effort to reinvent the experience of riding a public bus in Anchorage. There were public meetings and surveys.
Last fall, People Mover officials released two redesign concepts created by a Portland-based transit consultant, Jarrett Walker & Associates. The draft plans drew more than 500 comments which were posted on the city's transit website.