Anchorage plans People Mover reductions amid driver shortage, seeks public input

Anchorage’s People Mover bus system is planning to reduce services to some routes due to “significant workforce shortages and challenges,” according to the city’s Transportation Department.

The city is soliciting public input on two options for reduction proposed by the department. The service changes are proposed to take effect Oct. 28, with the final bus schedules published Sept. 27 at

Bart Rudolph, transit planning and communications manager, said People Mover has been experiencing fluctuating staffing shortages, primarily of bus drivers, since the pandemic.

Since last summer, the transit system has had to intermittently cancel bus trips due to a combination of factors, including driver vacancies and vacation leave, long-term leave and drivers calling in sick, Rudolph said.

“We’ve realized that we are not really meeting the expectations of the public in terms of service reliability as a result. So, it’s time for us to right-size our service for the amount of drivers and the workforce that we have available,” he said. “This is obviously a very big deal for us, and it’s a hard decision that we have to make to cut service.”

The department has honed in on two options to reduce service, though the final plan will largely depend on feedback from the public, Rudolph said.

Option one would reduce bus frequency from every half hour to every hour for six routes: 35, 55, 41, 65, 31, 51, 11 and 85.


The second option would primarily impact route 25, which has the highest ridership and runs between downtown and the Tikahtnu Commons shopping area in Northeast Anchorage, along A and C streets, Tudor Road and Muldoon Road. Under the proposed reduction, buses would run every 30 minutes instead of every 15 minutes.

Bill Falsey, chief administrative officer in Mayor Suzanne LaFrance’s administration, said the service reduction plan began under Mayor Dave Bronson. LaFrance took office July 1.

“This is something we inherited, and the change really seems to be driven by vacancies,” Falsey said.

In its transition report, the Bronson administration said the city has “obstacles to recruitment and retention due to national and local shortage of CDL bus operators and mechanics” and that it is “losing skilled CDL required staff to private sector industries paying higher wages.”

Broader vacancy problems

Vacancy problems extend far beyond the transportation department, Falsey said. Across the municipality there are “hundreds” of vacant positions, and “addressing that is going to be one of our very near-term challenges,” he said.

People Mover has been relying largely on bus drivers working overtime to keep up with route schedules, Rudolph said.

“We’ve had a Band-Aid on this for a while,” he said, adding, “It’s just not sustainable.”

Overtime cost the city $750,000 between Jan. 22 and June 22. In that same period, People Mover has been short 32 drivers daily on average and has missed 224 trips, according to the department.

The city’s contract with the union that includes its bus operators changed last October and increased the minimum number of hours that must elapse between shifts.

That change has further limited People Mover’s overtime capacity.

“We are forcing people to work overtime just to maintain the schedule that we have, and so, that’s one of the goals -- to prioritize the rest and wellness of our bus operators and not to overwork them all the time,” Rudolph said.

The service reductions are coming after several years of expanding bus services.

“It’s not the direction we prefer to go,” Falsey said.

The department in 2021 added a new bus route and has since increased service frequency to some routes, changing some from hourly service to every half hour and others to every 15 minutes.

While the department has felt staffing crunches on and off during the last few years, in the last few months “we really felt the strain,” Rudolph said.

“We just can’t keep up with that growth right now, until we can get more operators on board,” he added.

The department recently filled five of its eight vacant bus operator positions, according to Rudolph. There are 121 total bus operator positions.


The city requires drivers to have a CDL license with a passenger endorsement and at least one year of experience, and there’s a “dwindling amount of people available that have that unique qualification.”

Even when no staff positions are vacant, the department experiences driver shortages, Rudolph said.

During a June 13 meeting, Public Transportation Director Jamie Action told the department’s advisory board that the department is in an “ongoing bus operator shortage” that is twofold: “true vacancies” and “an issue of having enough of the workforce, the bus operators, coming to work every day.”

“Today, we had 30 people unavailable to come to work,” Acton told the Public Transportation Advisory Board. “This is impacting service on the street. It’s impacting the expectations that the public has. It’s impacting expectations that the administration and the Assembly have on us. So we are working with our HR partners, we are working with our union partners, we’re working with everybody that we can right now to try to figure out how we solve this problem.”

People Mover currently has an average of 11,500 riders per day during weekdays, Rudolph said. That’s slightly lower than the average ridership of 12,000 just before the pandemic. Ridership nosedived during the pandemic but has increased every year since 2021, he said.

How to comment

The public comment period on service reduction opened July 5 and ends Aug. 5.

Residents can vote for their preferred option via a website, email comments to, or mail comments to Transit Planning, P.O. Box 196650, Anchorage 99519.

Residents can also comment in person during several upcoming meetings and events:


• July 11: Public Transit Advisory Board, 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., at the Loussac Library in the Moose Room

• July 14: Pena Park Market, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at 8100 Starview Drive

• July 20: Fairview Block Party, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., at 12th Avenue and Nelchina Street

• July 24: Dimond Transit Center, 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., at 800 E. Dimond Boulevard

• July 25: Live After 5 Concert Series, 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., at Town Square Park

• July 27: Disability Pride Celebration, noon to 4 p.m., at the Delany Park Strip

• July 27: Anchorage Multicultural Festival, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., Town Square Park

• July 28: Taste of Spenard, noon to 5 p.m., at 2435 Spenard Road

• • •

Emily Goodykoontz

Emily Goodykoontz is a reporter covering Anchorage local government and general assignments. She previously covered breaking news at The Oregonian in Portland before joining ADN in 2020. Contact her at