New online service aims to ease commutes, encourage alternative transportation

Municipality of Anchorage's Chief Innovation Officer Brendan Babb presents LinkAK at City Hall in Anchorage on Nov. 10, 2016. (Photo by Josh Edge/APRN)
Municipality of Anchorage’s Chief Innovation Officer Brendan Babb presents LinkAK at City Hall in Anchorage on Nov. 10, 2016. (Photo by Josh Edge/APRN)

The Municipality of Anchorage launched a new online application to help ease Alaska commutes and encourage alternative forms of transportation.

Listen Now

Brendan Babb is the municipality’s chief innovation officer and one of the driving forces behind the city’s new trip planner – LinkAK

“This app has a lot of potential for carpooling. You can find other people that live close to you that are trying to go similar locations, and hopefully identify carpools, also identify van-pools,” Babb said. “Since we’re trying to find out where people are trying to go, it helps us figure out, ‘Oh, would a van-pool or something else be helpful to get people from point A to point B.'”

It’s not only limited to cars and vans – the site accounts for biking, walking, and even public transit.

The service is simple enough to use. Type in your starting point in one box and your destination in the other. Once you click go, it takes users to an interactive map where they can select their preferred mode of transportation and find both illustrated and written travel instructions.

Babb said the site also shows users the distance, estimated travel time, calories burned, “and also see how much greenhouse gases you divert.”

The Municipality of Anchorage's LinkAK travel planning application launched Nov. 10, 2016. (Photo by Josh Edge/APRN)
The Municipality of Anchorage’s LinkAK travel planning application launched Nov. 10, 2016. (Photo by Josh Edge/APRN)

For example, biking the 4.4 miles between the University of Alaska Anchorage and the Dena’ina Civic and Convention Center would take about 25 minutes, burn 246 calories and emit no additional greenhouse gas.

Babb expects the app to keep expanding to include additional transportation options.

“We’re talking to taxi companies to see if we can add information in, and if ride sharing like Uber or Lyft came back here, it would be really easy to integrate that as well,” Babb said.

And Babb said he also wants LinkAK to become a statewide service.

“My goal is at some point you’ll be able to go from Talkeetna all the way to Girdwood and figure out what trip to take,” Babb said.

Currently, the service is available in Anchorage, the Matanuska and Susitna Valleys and Sitka.

LinkAK’s development was paid for with federal grant money.

Upkeep is estimated at about $70,000 per year, with the first three years paid for through the Anchorage Metropolitan Area Transportation Solutions‘ transportation improvement plan fund.

LinkAK is mobile and desktop computer friendly.