This editorial appeared in The Anchorage Daily News.
Bad news at the pump was good news for the Anchorage People Mover, our city bus system. Gas prices near $4.50 a gallon boosted ridership to standing room only on some of the popular routes in town last summer. On Route 102, the Peters Creek-Downtown-Alaska Native Medical Center run, rush-hour buses often ran full. Routes like the 45, which usually has plenty of riders, picked up more, sometimes to standing room only.
The result? People Mover expects a record-breaking ridership in 2008 of 4.2 million.
The previous record, 4 million riders, came way back in 1982, when gas prices had also spiked and People Mover offered more frequent service. The system has 25 percent fewer buses now than it did in 1982.
This year's record ridership includes both residents for whom the bus has long been a lifeline and necessity, and those who found the bus a welcome antidote to sticker shock at the gas station.
Once aboard, some of those new riders find that the bus works for them – a practical and less expensive way to get where you're going, even as gas prices return to earth. If you're not an everyday commuter, the system is there when you need it, provides an alternative means to get to work, school and shopping.
To read the complete editorial, visit The Anchorage Daily News.