Relax and let the driver take you to your destination

Transportation around the state

First, I'm going to tell you a true story. Then we'll talk about how your public transit driver can pick you up and take you where you want to go for free, or sometimes for just a buck or two.

In the late 1990s Christy (my wife) and I lived for nearly a year in Huntsville, Alabama, while I did research for a book I was writing. On weekdays she took our car to her job, and I took a city bus to the law office where I was doing the research. After a few months I got to know the bus drivers pretty well on that particular route.

One day the driver-a short, round, jovial kind of guy-seemed to be in an especially good mood. No one else was on the bus so we were blabbing away having a good time. He was all atwitter because he had just purchased a new car.

Suddenly he turns to me and says, "Hey, do you want to see it?" I said sure, thinking maybe he would invite me over on the weekend for a burger, brew and car viewing. But no, he had a different idea. He said, "I'm running a few minutes early, and I don't live too far from here, so let's go take a look at it right now." And so we did -errant city bus and all.

The moral of the story is that public transportation can be unexpectedly entertaining. It's also good for the environment, allows you to do something other than stare at the car in front of you and, compared to car ownership, it's inexpensive. Talking about inexpensive, how about "free."

Girdwood

Christy and I have taken the Glacier Valley Transit (GVT) buses all over Girdwood. Ride them all you want – they are completely free. And you can actually call the bus driver to find out when the bus will get to your stop. In addition, the system has excellent services for those who have trouble getting to bus stops. Schedules and more on the web, glaciervalleytransit.com, or call the office at 907-382-9908.

Upper Susitna Valley

This is a phenomenal deal. Sunshine Transit provides free transportation in the communities of Talkeetna, Trapper Creek, Willow, Caswell and Houston. Get schedules and more at http://www.sunshinetransit.org, see Sunshine on Face Book, or call them at 907-495-8411.

Ketchikan

Did you know that the Ketchikan Gateway Borough motto is "Life is better in boots?" That is so Alaskan. Anyway, the free Downtown Shuttle operates during the tourist season and leaves designated bus stops once every 15 minutes during hours of operation. In addition, there is a more wide-ranging fee-for-service bus system. Routes, schedules, and more at kgbak.us/145/Transit, and on social media at "ketchikanbus," or call 907-225-TRAN (8726)

Anchorage

The public transit system in Anchorage is the 800-pound gorilla. People Mover serves half the population of the entire state. People Mover buses travel 2.1 million miles annually -- that's almost 85 trips around the world. Seniors travel for free on Wednesdays, and half-price every other day of the week. In addition, AnchorRIDES provides free rides for people whose disabilities prevent them from using People Mover, and for seniors going to health-related destinations. Get the details at: muni.org/Departments/transit/PeopleMover, or call 907-343-6543.

Juneau

This is a great deal for local seniors. Senior citizens with a local senior sales tax exemption card ride Capital Transit buses for free. In addition, Capital Transit offers a Ride Free Zone for everyone interested in getting to the Capitol, the Juneau-Douglas City Museum, Dimond Courthouse, the hostel, or other locations at the top of the hill. Find out more at http://www.juneaucapitaltransit.org, or call (907) 789-6901.

Fairbanks

Here's another smokin' deal for mature public transit riders in Alaska. If you are 60 or older you can ride the Fairbanks Metropolitan Commuter System (MACS) for free. Your ticket is any government-issued photo identification. In addition, there is the Van Tran paratransit service for those people whose physical, cognitive, or sensory disabilities prevent them from using the MACS Transit System fixed-route bus system. Want to know more? See the website at http://www.fnsb.gov/349/Metropolitan-Area-Commuter-System-MACS, or call 907-459-1010.

There are several more public transit systems scattered across Alaska. If you don't see yours here, inquire locally. And remember, if you are really lucky, one day you too may get to see the driver's new car.

Author Bio

Lawrence D. Weiss is a UAA Professor of Public Health, Emeritus, creator of the UAA Master of Public Health program, and author of several books and numerous articles.

 
 
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