Anchorage

Some Anchorage bus trips canceled over pandemic-related driver shortage

Some Anchorage People Mover bus trips were canceled Friday due to staff shortages related to COVID-19, the Anchorage Public Transportation Department announced.

Of around 850 trips planned, 24 are canceled, according to Bart Rudolph, city transit planner and Public Transportation communications manager. The canceled trips were between noon and midnight on Friday.

Ten of the department’s drivers had called in sick with COVID-19. Of the department’s 110 drivers, a total of 27 were out Friday for various reasons.

The department has been facing a driver shortage similar to that seen in other parts of the country. But this is the first time it has been forced to cancel bus trips due to a COVID-19 related driver shortage, Rudolph said.

“We’ve been close to this level, but we’ve always been able to fill the gaps with overtime and drivers volunteering to to work on their days off and such,” he said.

The department is currently trying to fill six driver vacancies.

“There is a driver shortage across the country. And that is no different here in Anchorage. We have been trying to hire drivers for months. And we have not had a full roster in quite some time,” Rudolph said.

The canceled trips were on routes 10, 20, 25, 30, 35, and 55. No two consecutive trips were canceled to minimize long wait times for riders, according to Rudolph.

“Obviously that doesn’t provide a lot of help or support when you’re standing out in the cold for an extra 15 or 30 minutes,” he said. “We hope that if people can get the message and they can check before they leave for the bus stop, they’ll be able to plan around these scheduled canceled trips.”

The department does not expect any trip cancellations during the weekend, but additional cancellations could be announced next week. Other drivers may be diagnosed with COVID-19 over the weekend as the city faces a surge in cases, so Rudolph advised riders to check with the department Monday before taking a trip.

An updated list of trips can be found by visiting peoplemover.org or calling 907-343-6543 during business hours. Trip cancellations will not appear on other bus tracking apps.

Iris Samuels

Iris Samuels is a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News focusing on state politics. She previously covered Montana for The Associated Press and wrote for the Kodiak Daily Mirror.

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