People Mover is the bus service of the public transit system in Anchorage, Alaska.1 At this time, People Mover runs 17 routes covering most of the Anchorage area, including three routes to the suburbs of Eagle River and Chugiak. People Mover generates about 10,000 rides a day (this in a population of 260,000, so it's not that great a number). It currently operates a fleet of 50 or so New Flyer D40LF buses, 3-7 years old, which are kept quite clean. The "Books on Buses" program provides a rack of children's books on each bus to entertain otherwise restless young children.

The route setup is generally radial. Every route except route 1 originates at the downtown Transit Center. Most routes terminate at or serve at least one of four areas: Providence Hospital, the Dimond Center mall, Muldoon, and Eagle River.

Outside opinions of People Mover are mixed, but it enjoys an extremely poor reputation among locals, especially those who were around before service had been reamed by budget cuts. It's perhaps better known for complaints about what it doesn't do than what it does: it no longer serves the airport, it doesn't serve the Hillside2 or much of south Anchorage, it doesn't run often enough, it doesn't run long enough on weekends, Eagle River service is a joke, the routes can be very indirect, commuters from the Mat-Su Valley aren't served at all . . . .

Despite this rather long list of problems, however, People Mover isn't a total wash. What it does do, it does pretty well. The buses are generally on time for reasonable values of on time (except the 45). The drivers, in my experience, are courteous and are able to drive sanely. The buses are also generally free of loonies and homeless types (except the 45). My personal experience is that, though the above complaints are all legitimate, People Mover's not all that bad most of the time -- except on weekends or when I need to make a tricky transfer.

The route restructure project currently in the early stages is expected to address all or most of the above concerns. However, the ideas for some of the issues are questionable at best... plus it's not entirely certain that anything will come of it. The city is beginning to get its act back together with regard to funding People Mover, but the, ah, idiosyncratic layout of the city, generally low-density development, and car-minded-ness of the population are ongoing problems with providing comprehensive bus service in Anchorage.

1. Other services include the Share-a-Ride vanpool service, AnchorRIDES paratransit for the elderly and disabled, and the Ship Creek Shuttle.
2. The Hillside is a wealthier, ruralish area in southeast Anchorage. The Alaska Zoo, Hilltop Ski Area, two major parks, a high school, and several popular hiking trails are located there.

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