The Matanuska Susitna Borough is one of a handful of areas in the United States designated by Easter Seals for a program aimed at better assisting disabled and elderly bus riders.
Public transportation for disabled and elderly riders has long been a problem in the Matanuska – Susitna Borough. But now, thanks to Easter Seals, a number of transportation services are getting together to do something about it.
Easter Seals’ Project Action sent facilitators to Wasilla for two days of workshops aimed at designing a new approach to an old problem. David Levy is executive director of the Alaska Mobility Coalition. Levy says the goal is to come out with a strategy to outline an accessible transportation plan in the Valley right now
“There are transportation needs between the Mat Su Valley and Anchorage commuter service. There are transportation needs within the urban parts of the Valley, which is Wasilla and Palmer. And there’s also a need from the rural parts of the Borough, from like Talkeetna and Willow, into Wasilla and Palmer for services. And so there’s all kind of these overlapping transportation needs and trying to coordinate that into one system.”
Lamar Anderson heads the Borough’s transportation advisory board, a volunteer committee that looks at a variety of transportation issues in the Borough and gives recommendations to the Planning Commission, which provides direct input into the Borough Assembly
“There are a lot of gaps, there’s a lot of needs. It’s struggling because it is growing. And you have different transportation providers who are doing their best with their particular routes or their particular missions, but trying to put more heads together in terms of how we can collaborate, cooperate better to use our available resources so that we can improve the ridership, the options for the Valley residents.”
Anderson says more bus stops, and more routes are some of the basic issues being addressed.
The Borough’s MASCOT bus service is run by a non profit that gets little Borough funding, according to executive director Charlotte Robinson. She says the ever-growing Valley is spreading out into new neighborhoods that have no bus service at all now.
Some fledgling transportation lines are springing up to serve areas that have never had bus service before. Sunshine Transit is run by the Sunshine Community Health Center in Talkeetna. Director Sue Deyoe:
“It’s really all about distance and funding, I mean, those are our two biggest challenges. We are a long, long way from Wasilla, and to try to get people who have health appointments or other things down in Wasilla, we’re travelling a long way. Which actually relates to funding, too, and there’s only a certain amount of funding.”
Deyoe says Sunshine Transit has future plans to serve Trapper Creek and Willow, if funding allows.