Senior Voice -

By John C. Schieszer
For Senior Voice 

Transportation options in Anchorage, Chugiak

 

November 1, 2021 | View PDF



The transportation options this winter around Alaska are expanding and more user-friendly than ever before. Senior Voice will be looking at different transportation systems and schedules this winter. In Anchorage, People Mover is a division of the Municipality of Anchorage’s Public Transportation Department (PTD) and is the largest public transit provider in the State of Alaska. It connects the community with transportation options, emphasizing customer service while providing economic, social and environmental benefits.

The first buses rolled out on July 1, 1974 with 39,505 passengers riding during the first month. In 2008, People Mover set a ridership record of 4.22 million trips in one year. Currently, each weekday approximately 12,000 passengers hop on at one of the many bus stops in the greater Anchorage and Eagle River areas. The People Mover fleet includes accessible, comfortable buses that travel 2.1 million miles annually. That’s almost 85 trips around the world.

The Public Transportation Dept. provides transportation within Anchorage with half fare for riders age 60 and older on the People Mover. It also provides free transportation on the People Mover every Wednesday.

AnchorRIDES

There is no fare required, but donations are based on transportation to medical and pharmacy locations on the AnchorRIDES paratransit service. AnchorRIDES is door-to-door transportation. “These transportation options would be considered extensive as both People Mover and AnchorRIDES provide accessible service to nearly every senior in the Anchorage bowl,” said Paris Butler, a spokesman for AnchorRIDES.

AnchorRIDES has 51 passenger vehicles and approximately 25 vehicles now are running (40 prior to the beginning of the pandemic). “We maintain the same schedules year round for AnchorRIDES. We are closed for the 11 municipal holidays,” said Butler.

For eligibility, seniors are required to first apply for AnchorRIDES services. After they apply and have received a call back to confirm their eligibility, individuals can call 907-343-6543, extension 2 to schedule their transportation.

“These transportation options are extremely important to the seniors throughout our community. AnchorRIDES helps to promote greater independence, inclusivity into the community, health and quality of life. Without access to reliable and affordable transportation many of the seniors and people experiencing disabilities would be isolated from experiencing all the Anchorage community has to offer,” Butler said.

AnchorRIDES partners with the Chugiak-Eagle River Senior Center to provide transportation to people experiencing disabilities. This entity also provides transportation options for seniors throughout that area and into Anchorage. Keep in mind, anyone 60 or older is considered eligible for senior citizens transportation. However, everyone is required to complete the AnchorRIDES application.

After completing the application, the information is entered into a computerized scheduling system. A letter of eligibility and the Rider Guide will be mailed. If you are a recipient of the Medicaid Home and Community Based Waiver Program and interested in having AnchorRIDES as a service provider, you should contact the Medicaid Waiver Specialist care coordinator at 907-343-6543. An enrollment form and authorized plan of care will need to be received before services can begin.

Reservations are available for scheduling on the day prior and up to 7 days in advance. To schedule a trip, call AnchorRIDES at 907-343-6543. When requesting a trip, you may request a pick-up time or request to be dropped off to meet a specific appointment time. Customer service representatives may negotiate the time of the pick up within one hour of the initial request. Based on occupancy, a passenger requesting a trip at 8 a.m. may be asked to accept a trip between 7 and 9 a.m. It is important to note that the hours after 9 a.m. and before 3 p.m. typically have fewer trip requests.

In most situations, the trip request will be confirmed immediately. If not, you will be put on a standby list. If the rider allows the trip to be placed on standby status, the rider will be notified by telephone if it has been scheduled up to the evening before the trip request. Trips may take longer than a direct trip because trips are scheduled in the most efficient order and other riders may share the vehicle.

Appointments and subscription trips

If a trip is for a scheduled appointment, please notify the scheduler when making your trip request. They will schedule the trip in order to get the rider to the destination so they arrive in time for the appointment. Subscription service is available for medical, education and training, or employment trips. Social and shopping trips are not eligible for subscription service. Subscription trips must be reoccurring and serve the same pickup address, destination address, same times and same days, at least once a week, for three or more months. Qualified trips may be placed on a waiting list. For more information or to schedule a subscription trip, call 907-343-6543.

AnchorRIDES service hours are comparable to the hours of People Mover operations. As a general rule of thumb, if People Mover routes are operating during the same time and area an AnchorRIDES trip is requested, then AnchorRIDES can schedule a trip for that time and location. Trip requests are compared to the nearest People Mover route for scheduling availability and eligibility.

People Mover has a mobile ticketing app for public transit services in Anchorage. You can download the app for free from the Apple App Store or Google Play and purchase tickets to use on the day of travel, or store them in the secure mobile wallet for future use. Tickets are purchased using a credit or debit card, or via digital wallets such as Masterpass and Apple Pay.

Smart cards reduce boarding time and can be replaced when lost or stolen for a fee. The cards can be loaded with a one week pass or 30 day pass.

Chugiak and Eagle River area

The Chugiak-Eagle River Senior Center provides rides from Hiland to Eklutna.

“We offer transportation to doctor’s appointments, pharmacy, shopping, banking etc. to Anchorage, Wasilla and our surrounding area. We transport wheelchair bound clients, ADA clients, and any individual that meets the age or disability requirements,” said Shelley Phillips who helps run the Chugiak-Eagle River Senior Center. “I do consider it extensive. We provide approximately 900 rides a month. We provide transportation based on a suggested donation of $3 one way to Eagle River, $6 one way to Anchorage/Wasilla and $9 one way to JBER. Again, this is only a suggested donation.”

The Chugiak Senior Center provides the same schedules year-round, weather permitting. It has a dispatcher and clients may call 24-to-48 hours in advance to schedule their appointments. The hours start at 6:30 a.m. and the last pick up time of the day is 5 p.m.

“There is a chain of command in-house that will communicate very early in the morning on bad weather days to decide if the roads are hazardous for travel conditions, at which time we would make the decision to cancel,” said Phillips. “Our rule of thumb is that if the school district canceled school due to weather than we cancel as well. If the decision is to cancel, the dispatcher and receptionist will contact clients for the day to cancel and reschedule.”

The transportation services in these areas are vital. Phillips said many of the clients do not drive and would otherwise not be able to make these appointments. “This could cause in some cases severe medical issues, issues with unhealthy eating, etc.,” said Phillips.

The Chugiak Senior Center transportation system started in the early 1980s, but it has been in full service since 1984. The program has grown tremendously and it has been greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. “Our center was closed for quite some time during COVID and offered very limited services at a much more scaled down amount,” said Phillips. “Since reopening, our rides per day have returned to normal riders per day, which is approximately 45 to 55 clients per day.”

Next month Senior Voice will report on transportation options in Kodiak and Kenai Peninsula communities.

 
 

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