Back in 1999, when my husband retired from the U.S. Coast Guard in Kodiak and we decided to make our home in the Chugiak-Eagle River area, we first rented a home in Peters Creek. It seemed rural enough to enjoy driving our four-wheeler around. It was. Yes, we probably broke some municipal laws doing so. Sorry about that.
But it was also urban enough in that public bus transportation came to within an okay walking distance for my older children to hop on the bus now and then headed to the Chugiak High School pool or to Eagle River to buy the junk food teens and pre-teens want. It gave me some security that they were on a municipality-operated bus with a bus driver that was qualified as such. It gave them a bit of freedom.
That service is long gone. Many people lamented the loss of those routes – I think 76 was one of them – that served the Chugiak-Peters Creek area.
But folks consoled themselves that Route 102 was still in existence.
Our family moved to Eagle River proper and the kids walked to the big box. They grew up and drove around.
I didn’t give much thought to bus service as my husband provides with me a working vehicle.
I have been thinking a lot about bus service lately, though. And I am seriously shaking my head at the proposal the Municipality offers now for those who live in this local area.
The Municipality says that Route 102 is an economic dog. Bus service planners have put forth route changes that eliminate Route 102 and concentrate the People Mover buses within Anchorage proper. The idea is to then replace Route 102 with its service to Eagle River and the Park and Rides in Chugiak and Peters Creek with a 13-passenger van service that will deliver people from the downtown Eagle River bus station only to Anchorage.
Perhaps from a ridership or a cost-effectiveness standpoint, I can understand this to some point. Route 102 indeed does not bring in a lot of money. And yes, its ridership is the lowest among the myriad of People Mover routes in the Anchorage Bowl.
But that is set to drastically change not if, but I truly suspect, when the Heritage Land Bank’s plans to put high-density housing in the Carol Creek parcel between Fred Meyer and the Harry J. McDonald Center become reality. Oh, sure, this has to go through all of the processes – planning, zoning, Assembly hearings, blah, blah, blah. And I know that there will be people opposed and people for it, but in the end, development of some configuration is coming to that property. It has to. It is an ideal location to drop a bunch of houses – especially affordable housing, which is indeed the Municipality’s most pressing need in terms of where people can afford to live.
I for one am not opposed to seeing that parcel of land developed appropriately with a mix of housing. People have to live somewhere. Everyone needs a roof over their heads. More housing in Eagle River means more economic development that is local, local, local.
But this proposed development moving forward at the same time that public transportation is being cut is foolish on the part of the Municipality. There, I said. More like I wrote it. I am sure I will get some nasty grams or hate mail. Bring it. Please. Do write me a letter with your opinion or contact me to chat about this.
I see this as the old adage about the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing. And not really caring too much either.
That is the part that I find the most bothersome.
If we are going to encourage people whose incomes qualify for high-density housing to live in Eagle River, then we have to not just face, but also provide for the reality that many of these folks may be dependent on public transportation. They may not be blessed or cursed – depending on how often a vehicle breaks down – with access to or ownership of a vehicle that can get them to their jobs – the bulk of which are most likely somewhere in Anchorage. Those are the facts, folks.
It just is short-sided and unreasonable to end public transportation to this community – especially when moves are being made to encourage folks who need it the most to move here.
Call me a dreamer, but I hope someday that kids will ride the bus again to go to the local swimming pool.
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