Anchorage: Alaska’s First Frequent Network

We’re happy to announce that Anchorage’s new bus network, for which we were the planning consultants, went live yesterday.  Without adding much operating cost, it introduces a network of four frequent lines — shown in red — where there were previously none. See these maps in high resolution here.

Anchorage Comparison Maps on letterhead

Again, the colors matter: red means high frequency (every <=15 minutes) while blue means every 30 minutes, green means every 60 minutes, and brown means less frequent than that.

(And if you like trivia, this is the northernmost Frequent Network in its hemisphere!)

This plan was the result of a two-stage public conversation which began by thinking about the trade-off between ridership goals and coverage goals.  The first round of that process led to a decision to lean heavily toward ridership — which means focusing resources where demand is highest instead of trying to cover the whole city.  So as always, a no-growth plan isn’t good news for everyone.  You can see several route segments disappearing.

We worked hard, though, to minimize that impact.  In the urban grid in the northern part of the city, lots of little hourly segments winding between the major grid streets have been removed, but there is still some service within walking distance for most of these people.  Further south and west, the development pattern is more scattered and less walkable, so focusing on high-demand areas meant complete deletion of service to some low-demand areas.

Remember, we didn’t propose this shift toward ridership.  As always, we laid out options and let the community decide.  If a community decided it wanted less frequency in order to have more coverage, we’d help them do that, too.

Another moral to this story: Active political leadership matters!  These plans usually need at least one political leader to show active interest, not just passive support.  Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz took personal interest in this project, engaging with it far more than any mayor in any city we’ve worked in so far.  His leadership was critical to pushing it over the line.

We really enjoyed collaborating with the great staff at Anchorage’s municipal transit department, People Mover.  It was a fun project for us from start to finish, because we were dealing with people who were really enthusiastic about making a better system.