Anchorage’s bus system plans to remove half a dozen stops along East 5th Avenue north of Merrill Field, citing concerns about “driver safety” during the loading of passengers with mobility issues.

People Mover announced Tuesday the planned closure of three stops in each direction along East 5th between Karluk Street and Reeve Boulevard. The closures will affect Route 92, People Mover’s main route linking Anchorage and Eagle River; its schedule focuses on bringing people into town during the morning rush hours and returning them to Eagle River in the afternoon.

According to People Mover planning director Bart Rudolph, the decision wasn’t a result of any crashes in the area, along downtown Anchorage’s heavily trafficked corridor to the Glenn Highway. Route 92 is served by 22-foot buses shorter than much of People Mover’s fleet, a choice which has prompted the problem associated with their passenger lifts.

“In order to operate the lift for wheelchairs and for people who cannot climb the stairs on the bus, the driver has to exit the vehicle from the driver’s side, walk around the vehicle to the curb side and manually operate the lift,” Rudolph wrote in an email. “Due to the multiple lanes of traffic and increased vehicular speed in this area, it was decided that it is in the best interest of the drivers to remove these stops.”

In addition, Rudolph said the targeted stops suffer from low ridership. Pickups and drop-offs at them have averaged from none to one per day since late October, when People Mover initiated a revised operating plan designed to better serve major routes.

“This is extremely low,” Rudolph wrote. “Many of the stops have recorded less than five total passengers using the stops in a three-month time period.”

People Mover may be able to restore the stops, Rudolph said, if the route is served by larger 40-foot buses with lifts capable of being operated without drivers leaving their seats.

The changes along Route 92 are set to take effect Feb. 28.

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