Empire Editorial: Daylight saving time is a necessary inconvenience

  • Thursday, November 5, 2015 1:01am
  • Opinion

Editor’s note: The following editorial first published Feb. 11, 2015, in the Juneau Empire. The editorial is being reprinted in light of a House subcommittee compromise to SB6 introduced by Sen. Anna MacKinnon, which would move the state to Pacific Standard Time instead of eliminating daylight saving time.

On Tuesday (Feb. 10, 2015), the Alaska Senate’s State Affairs Committee advanced a bill that would exempt the 49th state from daylight saving time starting in 2017.

It sounds like a good idea, and based on the comments you posted on Facebook and Twitter, many of you agree. Unfortunately, reality has a way of dashing our hopes for improvement. While abandoning daylight saving time makes sense, Alaska would only benefit if the rest of the country follows suit. If Alaska abandons daylight saving while the rest of the country does not, the state will at times be an extra hour distant from the Lower 48. Imagine a two-hour difference between Juneau and Seattle or a five-hour difference between Southeast and the East Coast.

History has shown us that while Alaska has tended to keep the world at arms’ length, problems tend to arise when the distance grows too far.

Right now, Alaska has three time zones. Metlakatla is on Pacific Time (unofficially, Hyder is, too). Out west, Adak, Atka, Shemya and Attu are on Hawaii-Aleutians time. The rest of the state is firmly in the Alaska Time Zone.

That wasn’t always the case. Before Oct. 30, 1983, Alaska had four time zones. Most of Southeast was on Pacific Time. Yakutat was on Yukon Time, one hour later than Pacific. The Railbelt, including Anchorage and Fairbanks, was on Alaska time, two hours later than Pacific. Western Alaska including Nome, Dutch Harbor and the Aleutians, was in the Bering Time Zone, three hours distant from Pacific Time.

If you lived in Alaska before 1983, you know how much of a headache this spread was. Imagine today trying to set up meetings or coordinate flights between Anchorage and Juneau amid a two-hour time difference.

Juneau in particular has struggled with time troubles. In 1979, Mayor Bill Overstreet and the CBJ Assembly tried to move Juneau from Pacific Time to Yukon Time in order to reduce the two-hour difference between Juneau and the Railbelt.

The U.S. Department of Transportation approved the change, but so many people were upset by the move that it was reversed a year later.

We’ve seen first-hand what happens when Alaskans try to mess with time zones. Unless the rest of the United States — we’d even settle for just the West Coast — abandons daylight saving time alongside Alaska, the 49th state will simply trade one inconvenience for another.

We don’t like daylight saving time, but the alternative isn’t better. If you think otherwise, look at the lessons we’ve already learned.

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