Sunday, November 16, 2008

When was the last time you rode a bus?

That's a paraphrase of the headline on a NY Times opinion piece today. I wonder how many people who don't have to ride a bus in Anchorage - or wherever you are reading this - have actually been on a bus in the last year? So, if you have a car, when was the last time you took a bus? If you haven't taken a bus, why not?

I think about all the students and faculty and staff at the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) whose University ID card is a free bus pass. How many of you have ridden the bus? For you it's free for crying out loud!

Gas prices have been up to unheard of heights, parking at UAA is a pain, and there's the People Mover right there - free for UAA people - and most don't even consider it an option. I know, there are good excuses. It takes too long. It doesn't go where I want, when I want. And on and on. Here are some tips:

1. Check the on-line Route Generator.

You just put in where you are and where you want to go etc. and it tells you what bus to catch, where, and when.
2. Each bus stop has the times buses are due and a list of main stops.
3. Buses rarely if ever come by early. My experience is that they are generally 2-10 minutes late (the further from the starting point and the more traffic the later they are.)
4. Just going to a bus stop to catch a bus can be a hit and miss thing. More miss than hit. If you don't use the bus regularly, you don't know the routes. Plus there are times of the day when it may be an hour wait for the next bus. It makes much more sense to check the schedules so you don't have to wait long.
5. Take a book or i-Pod and enjoy the free time to catch up on something you want to read or hear.
6. During summer, try biking to the nearest bus stop - after checking the schedule - putting your bike on the rack and riding the bus somewhere and then biking home.

Public transportation is one of those situations where low demand makes for low service which in turn decreases the demand. But if more people use it, it becomes more cost-efficient to have more frequent service, which makes it more convenient to use it.

But first the People Mover has to get people to change their mental images of the bus, to recognize that it is an alternative to the car for getting from here to there. I challenge everyone in Anchorage who reads this to take the bus one day for at least one ride. Then report back here about how it went.

Oh, yeah, the NY Times piece by Robert Goodman was interesting too. Here's the beginning.

THE federal government is giving General Motors, Ford and Chrysler $25 billion in low-interest loans, and the companies are asking for up to $25 billion more. These same companies have spent millions of dollars lobbying against federal fuel-economy standards and are suing to overturn the emissions standards imposed by California and other states. In exchange for the loans, Congress should first insist that the automakers stop fighting these standards. But it should also make sure that better outcomes will result from these billions than just fuel-efficient cars.
The rest of the article is here.


  1. If public transportation here was like in Latin America I would use it in a heart beat.

    There were plenty of buses so that one didn't have to wait an hour in between rides. They were much more convenient so I don't have to ride downtown just to catch another one.

    Right now, the family I work with has a 4 HOUR a day bus ride. That includes wait time, transfer time, etc. NOT conducive for our lifestyles.

    As a Mom, I have to drive my daughter to pre-K. Then, I go work out. To make that happen on the bus? Not possible.

  2. The only times I've ridden the bus in Anchorage, was when I worked as a case manager at the Cordova Center, and rode it to see what the residents there had to put up with.

    But, when I'm in towns with adequate public transportation, like Seattle or Portland, Judy and I have used public transportation fairly regularly. You don't have to pay parking, and in Portland, the layout of the city makes it extremely bus- and light rail-friendly.

  3. I can add to the Anchorage vs big city comparison, but that's a bit obvious, isn't it? A 'problem' most people in the states will not abide is housing/business density. Drive to a huge shopping mall? Yes, But actually give up a yard for shrinking the expanse of our homes? No.

    The automobile so drastically reshaped American architecture (and any city growing after 1920) that it can only be reshaped by necessity once again. What that necessity will be, I don't know. Some say energy resources, some global warming, others civic integration.

    Anchorage is miserable to get around in if you don't own a car. At Out North, we brought visiting artists into the city. Time and again, we saw the difficulty of transporting them to see what they needed to see. But it is so much a function of size and density. I will follow that by one more criterion: commitment to public transport.

    When a city such as Anchorage responds to an electorate that wants convenience above all else, the auto will be the choice. We all make this happen by saying, "No, we can't (give up our cars)."

    At least while Gene and I lived in Anchorage, we chose our home so we could walk to work, shared one car and took the bus when the other needed the car. That behavior would be a start, but alas, it's not considered reasonable to ask it.

    Good luck, Americans. You do love your wasteful ways.

  4. Well I don't live in Anchorage but I use public transportation frequently.
    It is the site about public transportation in Budapest. It is not as good as the Hungarian version but this site is still acceptable.


Comments will be reviewed, not for content (except ads), but for style. Comments with personal insults, rambling tirades, and significant repetition will be deleted. Ads disguised as comments, unless closely related to the post and of value to readers (my call) will be deleted. Click here to learn to put links in your comment.