People Mover analyzes first year of bus system changes
The Municipality of Anchorage has released a report on how it thinks a new bus system is working.
Serving a total of 3,222,778 passengers, transportation officials say the transportation system shifted from an "infrequent system that prioritized coverage over ridership to a system that offers more direct and frequent service."
Three services are provided by the municipality's Public Transportation Department:
1. People Mover is a fixed route bus service.
2. AnchorRIDES is a paratransit service for seniors and people with disabilities.
3. RideSHARE provides vanpool services.
People Mover made big changes in October 2017. Public transportation officials say it was an effort to curb a trend in declining ridership. According to the report, the 2015 average weekday ridership was down 5.5 percent from 2014. Ridership dropped by 5.9 percent in 2016. And in the first 10 months of 2017, before the new system was implemented, ridership decreased by 3.9 percent.
Part of the new system is that buses arrive every 15 minutes on some of the most densely populated routes. The hours of service have also expanded with buses now running to midnight on the weekdays, including 2 a.m. to the airport. The number of trips on the weekend also doubled.
A lot of bus riders complained when the changes happened, including Elaine Philemonof.
"I'm trying to go to Muldoon where my children are," said Philemonof, noting that her round-trip journey would now entail six buses instead of four.
"I think they should have left it the way it was," she said when the changes happened.
Other riders complained some routes being canceled forced them to walk to another bus stop, which they said was difficult in the snow.
City transportation planning leaders expected glitches right away.
Transportation officials say the analysis of the first year of the bus system found that it operated better than expected but with "room for improvement."
"The system is working well for those within walking distance, but there are still parts of the municipality without any bus service," said Public Transportation Department director Jamie Acton. "We're very pleased with the progress that's been made so far and anticipate continued improvements moving forward as we plan and prioritize future investments based on what's important to the community."
The report states that weekday average ridership decreased by 1.9 percent, which is less than officials expected. Saturday average ridership decreased 3 percent, while Sunday average ridership increased 17.2 percent.
Some highlights of the report include on-time performance.
Overall, the buses were on-time 84 percent of the time during the first year of the new system. Even with buses arriving more frequently, the system was just shy of the 85 percent on-time goal. Initially, the neighborhood and commuter routes were not as consistently on-time as the frequent and standard routes, according to the report.
The report also states that 73 percent of Municipality of Anchorage jobs are within a quarter-mile of a bus stop. Additionally, 51 percent of residents are within a quarter-mile of a bus stop.
The report also indicates that less than 1 percent of all trips were missed.
The report also breaks down major routes, the route length, hours of operation for the route, number of weekday and weekend average ridership numbers, number of buses need to operate at peak performance, on time performance and annual operating cost of the route.
Transportation officials say the so-called report card will be used as a starting point to begin conversations with the public to figure out where the Public Transportation Department goes from here, including where the department could add or modify service and how it can work better for more people.
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