PRESS RELEASE – Mat-Su Public Transit Campaign*
Contact: Charlotte Robinson, 864-5010
Riding the Bus to Support Public Transportation
U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski delighted attendees at the recent Alaska Community Transportation Conference, by jumping on a simple request from the audience…
“Please ride the bus with me and I’ll show you how the schedule works and what it takes to get from point A to B”.
Senator Murkowski only hesitated for a moment before taking Valley resident (Public Transit Rider and Advocate), Rosemary Vavrin, up on the offer. So on Halloween, (Wednesday Oct 31), after Senator Murkowski gave a keynote address to students at Mat Su College, she stepped on a MASCOT bus, which picked up students at Alaska Job Corps in Palmer, and then connected her to Valley Mover’s bus to Anchorage. She spent the time speaking with riders and local public officials, including Mat-Su Borough Mayor Larry DeVilbiss and Elizabeth Ripley of the Mat-Su Health Foundation (see picture). She ended the ride by taking a look around the downtown Anchorage Transit Center, where Valley Mover connects to Anchorage’s People Mover.
This marks the beginning of a public campaign by the four Public Transit providers in the Mat-Su Borough (Chickaloon Area Transit System, MASCOT, Sunshine Transit and Valley Mover) to educate residents about available services, the critical public support needed to secure local government funding and how public transportation benefits all residents. Senator Murkowski’s ride was one of the first steps in getting residents and local public officials alike to understand that people from all walks of life and all levels of income ride public transportation and that public transit is part of the economic health and vitality of the Borough.
Most public transportation in the United States is funded through federal grants, which require a certain percentage of local matching funds. Most states (including Alaska) contribute a portion of these matching funds. Many municipalities own and operate the systems or they provide direct local financial support. While this also holds true for most communities in Alaska; the public transit in the Mat-Su Borough is provided by four, nonprofit organizations (listed above) that are in need of local financial support.
These organizations, who are struggling to meet the growing demand for Public Transit in the borough have been turning to private local funders, (such as the Mat-Su Health Foundation) to obtain the required local match that allows them to continue to operate and secure federal funding. However, these types of private funding organizations are constantly overwhelmed by requests from the multitude of nonprofits applying for funds, and can’t continue to step in to fill the gap.
There is a direct economic impact on the borough as a whole and to the lives of its residents who depend on public transportation if it is no longer available. This could happen in the near future if providers cannot secure the critical local funding.
There is also a borough-wide effort amongst all of the service providers of transportation and stakeholders to work on raising public awareness of available services and local funding needs, and also to increase efficiency and collaboration. In September, a group of thirty-seven (37) government officials, public transit entities, health and human service providers, senior centers, businesses, and other public transportation supporters met to begin a year-long effort to do outreach and coordination.
*The Mat-Su Public Transit Campaign is a joint effort by Chickaloon Area Transit System (CATS), Mat-Su Community Transit (MASCOT), Sunshine Transit Coalition (STC), and Valley Mover. This campaign continues thru the end of 2013, and we would appreciate your help in putting the “spotlight” on the need for local support of public transit.
Photo Courtesy of: Alaska Mobility Coalition (AMC) – Photo by Jim Benning Photography
Pictured: U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski; Elizabeth Ripley, Executive Director, Mat-Su Health Foundation; Mat-Su Borough Mayor Larry DeVilbiss; Charolett Robinson, Executive Director, MASCOT.