Monday, May 20, 2013
More Riders Rely On People Mover Buses For Transportation
Municipality may expand program that gives certain buses control over traffic lights to make routes more efficient
Correction: Buses, not bus operators, control traffic lights
ANCHORAGE—As times get tough, more people are boarding the bus.
“It's been hard trying to find work,” said Theresa Kitsick, who was on route 3 with her three children, en route to local hospitals to sell hand-made jewelry.
“Because we have no car,” her 9-year-old daughter, Davida, said.
The bus is the only mode of transportation for the Kitsicks, which can be a headache when it’s running late and they have appointments to make.
To make sure buses run on time, the city tried an experiment.
“We have a transit signal priority program that we have installed as a pilot we started in 2010,” said Lance Wilber, director of the municipality’s public transportation department. “We put it on two routes—on Arctic Boulevard and on Spenard, so route 7 and route 9.”
The program essentially gives buses on those routes control over traffic lights—similar to the mechanism emergency vehicles use, but with a lower priority, according to the municipality.
“If a bus is running on time it's not running the pre-emption,” Wilber said. “So it's only working when the buses are running at least five minutes behind.”
Loren McClure has been a People Mover driver for nine years and says other drivers have said the program has been a success.
“The drivers that do (routes) seven and nine say, ‘Yes, it was,’” McClure said.
“When the system is not running on schedule or a little behind schedule we want to make sure it does run on time and they are running on time,” Wilber said. “As a matter of fact, we've been able to tighten our schedules on those routes because they are running more efficiently.”
The municipality does not have any immediate plans to expand the program to other bus routes, but “will work with traffic engineering and the state” to find out which routes should be part of the program "probably within a year from now," Wilber said.