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The Beardcicle Chronicles Episode Three: Metal

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The Beardcicle Chronicles

Let’s drop all the pretenses. I ride my bike because I am cheap. I ride the bus because I am cheap. That’s really the heart of the matter.

Now that we have that out of the way… let’s focus on something else for a while. Let’s talk about urban planning. Let’s talk about transportation. Let’s talk about how asinine road planning is in Anchorage. In Alaska in general.

Never have I run into a place where there are so many roads named the same with New or Old appended to differentiate. Nowhere have I been where a road can come to a stop sign and have the 90 degree right hand turn retain the name of the road you were just on while the 90 degree left turn and the straight ahead road are both named differently. Huh?

In this state, roads stop for no apparent reason. They change names for no apparent reason. In general, it seems, to the outsider, that the idea of road planning is completely foreign.

Wait, you mean the town might grow some day so we should think about that now? No, no one will ever want to move here…

Yeah, I know, the whole black gold rush. I know. There were more important things to worry about than urban planning and the future. There was money to be made. I get it.

There is a move afoot in Anchorage to punch a road through one of the great east side green spaces. (Read a great editorial about it here.) A place where I’ve spent hundreds of hours riding in the sun, watching the Iditarod start, skiing a time or two, hunting blue berries, watching moose, getting muddy, and escaping traffic all not more than a mile from other busy roadways in the area.

I no longer have any real interest in what happens to this area. If the road is built or is not, it won’t affect me either way any more.

But you know what? I still don’t want to see a road go through the area. For a number of reasons.

First and foremost, while traffic is bad on Northern Lights and Tudor, and it is a bitch to cross from one to the other because of the university and the green space, punching a road through the middle isn’t going to do anything but send traffic from two large arterials (36th and Boniface, both 4 lane roads) through the campuses of two colleges.

I hate to say it, but UAA has never really shed the feeling of a commuter college, at least to me. Heck, just throw up a strip mall to house the school, while you’re at it.

There’s a strong possibility that a new road cut through the campus would not ease congestion. There’s no guarantee that people would use it. Two lanes with multiple roundabouts doesn’t seem like the best way to alleviate traffic.

Someone once said “If you build it, they will come.” I think it was James Earl Jones. Or Darth Vader. But the underlying logic is sound. We can’t combat traffic congestion by building more roads. More roads end up getting filled with more cars and the cycle continues.

Here is where you expect me to get on my tall bike and start pontificating about how the only way to do away with traffic congestion is by ditching the car and riding a bike.

You’re wrong. I could do that, but won’t because that’s just a stupid argument.

Instead, I’ll suggest that the muni might be better served not with another road, but with making improvements to the public transit system to entice more ridership away from their cars, including more runs, a central hub in addition to the transit center and the Dimond transit center to speed up transfers, and maybe the hiring of PeopleMover ambassadors to help new riders make their connections and provide a visible presence to possibly deter some of the less savory stuff that happens on the bus.

And if there’s anything left, try some share rows or lined and signed bike lanes?

The sticking point here, though, is that no politician wants to promote public transport expansion because their constituents generally view more buses as being akin to the government trying to take their cars away. Public transit advocacy has a hard time translating to campaign money, and last I checked the bike lobby wasn’t flush with cash.

The public thinks that riding the bus takes 100 times longer than driving does. Yeah, it takes longer, but most of the time, the reason it takes longer isn’t so much the stops the bus must make, but the traffic congestion coupled with the stops. But that’s all conjecture on my part.

If there’s a take away here, it is this. Anchorage and Alaska as a whole is old enough now as a state to really start thinking about the future and designing what we want the state to look like in 100 years rather continuing to approach development as if it were still the 70s and we just need to get infrastructure put in place, the future be damned.

 

Read more from Phil B. on his blog, Multimodal Alaska Adventures.