Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Meet Your Master

At eleven below zero the sound of tires rolling on snow sounds just like rubbing two pieces of styrofoam together. Not a pleasant nor unpleasant sound.

At this temperature any moisture on a bike freezes quickly. Like the moisture in my rear brake cable. At this temp either the muscles start to get stiff or the grease in the bike gets stiff. Things freeze. It's no fun. Except when it is.

 I don't want to spend too much time talking about the cold and how it is soooo unbearable, but I ride in it anyway. That's just silly.

Instead, let's talk about rumors and trains. Trains and rumors. For a number of years, going back to at least 2009, there has been talk of a commuter train from the Valley to Anchorage. To this point, there's been a lot of roadblocks. Not the least of which is the cost of upgrading rail lines in order to bring the travel time below an hour.

Yesterday I heard from an older woman on the bus that the talk of a commuter run is in the works again and that the Alaska Railroad Company plans to have it started by mid-summer.

My initial thought is that this is great. Anything to offer the types of choices that will get folks off the road and into mass transit.

Then I actually stopped to think about it. And there are a number of issues I foresee. First, the Valley Mover bus is in a constant state of flux trying to match service levels to ridership numbers and right now we are in the midst of discontinuing another bus from the schedule. So, the addition of a daily commuter train or trains likely means that a portion of the VM riders will migrate to the train, thus reducing rider numbers, thus requiring a consolidation of buses. My only concern, as a rider, with this is that with fewer options for bus schedules, the harder it will be for some riders to make the bus work with their schedule - thus possibly reducing ridership further. You see where this is going. A downward spiral.

Another issue I see is with the train service itself. In the winter it would be wonderful to be on a train and not have to worry about the traffic and road conditions. And if the train runs faster than the bus, that's another plus. But at what cost? Right now the VM is $125 for a monthly pass. Can the train meet or beat that? Maybe so, but something tells me that it's not likely. If the train is not reasonable, not less than what it would cost to drive, then why would someone use the service? And where are the train stations to be located? The VM has the benefit of really being able to pick up and drop off anywhere. The train does not have this luxury. Though, one might be able to purchase a hot cuppa Joe on the train. And I'm sure the ride would be warmer in the winter than the busses are.

I'm excited to see how this plays out - if it plays out at all. More choices, on the whole, have to be a good thing. Getting more people into mass transit is the ultimate goal and if the train helps with that, then that is awesome.

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