Since I crashed my car (for the first time in my life) a little over a week ago, I've been without a steady form of regular transportation of my own. I've been largely reliant on the kindness of others. And by the kindness of others, I mean mostly Trav. He has been incredibly nice rolling me around town and such. But, I'm starting to feel really bad about it. Plus, I don't like feeling so dependent and reliant.
I've been riding my old friend, People Mover, a certain amount since I've been with out my car. However, I decided to really get back in the game today. I rode to work, then school, then the Dimond Center (to get a wireless router) and then to my parent's house. I haven't decided if I'm going to catch another bus away from here...or if I'm going to wait for the kindness of a ride from my mom and/or Trav.
Anyway. None of that is really my point. While tooling around town on the bus today I've had to distinct thoughts/feelings.
1. I feel oddly more independent on the bus that I do when driving around in my car. Why is that? At first, I was thinking that it must just be in contrast to relying on other people to get around. But then, I started thinking about it more and came up with two thoughts. The first is that, even if it is only the pithy bus system offered in Anchorage, it feels good to be well acquainted with routes and time tables. Even without a car, I am already well equipped to function within the transportation system that is provided me. The second, and probably more influential, is that I am probably feeling a throw back to the first feelings of independence I used to associate with the bus. Not getting my licence in high school like everyone else I knew, People Mover was my first taste of independence.
2. While on the bus I was reading the most recent edition of the Anchorage Press. There was a small snippet in which Mark Begich (our current Mayor) was explaining how a commuter rail link between the Dimond Center and downtown is probably going to a reality with in five years! Even more incredibly, this opens up the possibility for a link between the Valley and Anchorage in a short amount time. And, once that was developed, it would only be a matter of time before more stops or routes could be added at hub points around Anchorage, and perhaps more in the valley.
I can't even begin to explain what a benefit to the Anchorage commuter community such a link would be.
First of all, in terms of the Anchorage rail, I remember all too painfully the fact that, when taking the bus, it takes about an hour to get from South Anchorage to downtown Anchorage.
In a car, even at the busiest times of day, this takes a maximum of 25 minutes. So the hour long bus ride is painful. Adding a rail link from the Dimond Center to downtown could drastically reduce this commute time. People could bus from their outlying neighborhoods to DC Transit Center, transfer to the train, and be downtown taking only slightly longer than it takes to drive independently in one's own car. And, it would save all of the stress and hassle of driving in traffic (or the close approximation to traffic that we have here in Anchorage.)
The mayor also suggested that the several million dollars which are projected to be sent on the Knik Arm Crossing Bridge could (SHOULD) be diverted and spent on developing a real commuter rail from the valley and the necessary accessory services (such as increased access to downtown from the railroad depot and increased bus routes and service of existing routes)to make this a viable option and one that might be embraced by the other wise car loving, independent Alaskans.
To have such a commuter rail system would be amazing! Again, as I said, it could save those people who already depend on public transportation tons of time, as well as opening more options. But, in terms of the real commute, such as the one folks from the Valley make every day, the change would be incredible, and far more beneficial the Knik Arm bridge. The rail system would reduce traffic congestion, which would in turn reduce commute time (especially in the winter), reduce air pollution and would likely be a option much more accessible to the bulk of valley residents than a bridge for which they would all have to drive considerably out of their way to access in the first place.
Am I being too hopeful to think that Anchorage can actually develop in a pedestrian/commuter/environmentally friendly way before we make too many of the same mistakes that other cities have made at this stage in development? Am I too hopeful to think that the powers that be are finally starting to realize that we have a real need for a highly effective and developed network of public transportation?