Transit troubles

Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - 12:36

The transportation needs of Chugiak-Eagle River should no longer take a back seat behind Anchorage priorities.

Although there are many wonderful things about living in our community, there’s one area where improvement is sorely needed: transportation. Unfortunately, the greater Municipality of Anchorage has often shown that it cares little for ensuring folks out here have decent access to bus and taxi service.

In his recent budget proposal, Mayor Dan Sullivan outlined cuts to the city’s People Mover system that would eliminate routes in Chugiak-Eagle River. This should have come as no surprise to local bus riders, who have fought tooth-and-nail over the years just to get even limited service out here. If Sullivan’s proposal goes through, locals wishing — or needing — to use public transportation to get to and from the city will be left out in the cold.

We would suggest those folks might just take a cab, but that’s not always easy out here, either. Because of limits on the number of cab permits issued in Anchorage, combined with a system that allows drivers to make far more money elsewhere, Eagle River has no dedicated taxi service. Not only is this an inconvenience, it’s a safety hazard because many people who need to take cabs do so because they’re intoxicated. When there’s a lack of reliable taxi service, it’s a good bet that some people whose judgment is impaired will decide to hop in their car rather than wait for a cab.

If there were more cabs in Eagle River, the business community would benefit significantly. Eagle River’s business district can continue to grow, but only if people have a way to safely and conveniently get around.

Several people in recent days have suggested the transportation issue is one more reason why Chugiak-Eagle River should be autonomous from Anchorage. That might not be a bad idea. After all, Chugiak-Eagle River is a thriving, well-to-do area with some of the highest property values in the Municipality. People out here pay their share — and more — for city services. And yet when it comes to getting a return on that money, it often seems like we’re the ones left holding the bag.

Maybe secession from the Muni isn’t the answer. It would be costly and time-consuming to disentangle our area from the larger Municipality. But the longer Chugiak-Eagle River’s transportation needs are ignored, the more people will continue to wonder why we have to pay for services and amenities that exist in Anchorage but not here.

Chugiak-Eagle River isn’t asking for a free ride — we just don’t want to be left out in the cold.

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