“A Game Changer” for Albuquerque: Bus Rapid Transit Is a Go

Albuquerque's ART bus rapid transit seeks to change the way people get around. Image: City of Albuquerque
Albuquerque’s ART bus rapid transit project will put a center-running busway on the city’s main street. Image: City of Albuquerque

Recently, Albuquerque has gotten a good look at the insanity that can grip people when confronted by the idea of reallocating street space from cars to transit. The city is planning to add center-running bus lanes along Central Avenue — its main street — and for months public meetings about the project featured people standing on chairs and shouting, actual fights, and the occasional police escort out of the building.

But this week, cooler heads prevailed. The Albuquerque City Council voted 7-2 to accept $70 million in federal money and get started on the project, called ART, which is backed by the city’s Republican mayor. Now, after a long and tense drama, it looks like ART is a go.

Dan Majewski helped found YES ART NOW, a grassroots group that supported the project. He is elated. Majewski said council members had a well-reasoned debate and weren’t swayed by opponents who said bus lanes would ruin their neighborhood.

“I think it’s an absolute game changer,” Majewski said. “I think that’s part of why there’s been so much vitriol around the project.”

“It’s really symbolic of the culture shift,” he added. “What we witnessed [Monday] night was historic: the city voting to prioritize something other than automobiles. We’ve never seen a situation where people are consciously voting to take away lanes for cars and give them to transit.”

With the ART, the stars seem to be aligning for Albuquerque to become more than “a collection of … nondescript subdivisions connected by monotonous commercial strips,” as one local writer put it.

central_ave
Central Avenue today is a high-speed motorway through the middle of Albuquerque. Image: Google Street View

The Central Avenue corridor carries 42 percent of the region’s transit passengers and is one of the few areas with decent pedestrian infrastructure. During peak hours, ART buses will run every 7.5 minutes along the nine-mile route. Faster, more reliable service will improve trips for current riders and hopefully attract more.

In addition, the city has taken on a total rewrite of its land use plan, Majewski says, which is supposed to be released at the same time ART is completed — as soon as September of 2017. A federal grant of about $860,00 will be devoted to planing transit-oriented development around ART stops.

Majewski says this should be just the beginning for Albuquerque.

“What I hear most often is, ‘Why aren’t we using this money to improve other parts of the transit system?'” he said. “We’re having this amazing community dialogue about our transit system that we’ve never had before.”

  • Alex Brideau III

    It will be awesome when this project comes to fruition. I take Amtrak’s Southwest Chief train a few times a year, and it usually has a layover at Albuquerque. Normally this only gives me time to walk a few blocks to a nearby coffeehouse for a drink, but when the ART debuts, it will certainly add to the places I can check out (and spend my tourist dollars at). 🙂

  • Kenny Easwaran

    Spend a day or two, check out the historic Nob Hill neighborhood along Central Ave, former Route 66, take the RailRunner to Santa Fe!

  • Alex Brideau III

    I believe it’s possible I may have a conference in ABQ this autumn, so I may go exploring if I have extra time, though I’ve probably seen some of the area on one of my college Route 66 trips way back when.

  • scottmercer

    People are objecting about taking a lane away from cars? There’s a total of three cars in that image. They can deal with it.

  • mr macc

    and the bikers – they get squeezed already by buses – this will effect them. You’re not thinking.

  • mr macc

    building a bus for the homeless – almost as dumb as austin’s new library that’s going to provide bathrooms for the homeless based on the people in the current library when I go check out books.
    for the 40 people a day – that use this thing weekly – it’s great
    for the tax payers – another NM boon doggle waiting for cost overruns and delays.

  • JBM

    Really proud of my city for approving this. I really am looking forward to both taking the ART and hopefully also expanding the other RapidRide buses to other parts of Albuquerque! This is a plan so well fine-tuned to our city that I can’t believe we’re actually going to get such a fabulous system. I can’t wait for them to break ground in May!

  • JBM

    As a cyclist who sometimes uses Central, this plan actually would make me feel safer. It’s not usually the buses that give me a headache but the cars that go far too fast and weave in and out of traffic (though one time a Blue Line bus merged onto Central without looking too well and gave me a little panic). This will help slow cars and make it better for pedestrians and cyclists. I hate the narrow sidewalks in Nob Hill for example, it hardly feels like the “pedestrian friendly” neighborhood they make it out to be when cars are zooming by at 40+mph. The plan will also add bikelanes where possible, as well as more trees and parking to help make the street feel even more safe. Also in terms of safety, the stations will have much better lighting than the current RapidRide stations have as well as more funding for committed security staff. I urge you to look into the details of the plan, they have put a lot of thought into it and it will certainly help a large stretch of the city come closer to the “complete-street” we want to have.

  • sam

    I’m a cyclist. I bike in ABQ often, commuting to work and for fun. Not many cyclists use Central mr macc, why would they? and if the buses are running in the middle, how would they effect the cyclists exactly?

  • BBnet3000

    The Central Avenue corridor carries 42 percent of the region’s transit passengers and is one of the few areas with decent pedestrian infrastructure. During peak hours, ART buses will run every 7.5 minutes along the nine-mile route.

  • Jason

    In addition to what BBnet3000 noted, as a more general point, trying to kneecap mass transit and then turning around and pointing at “nobody rides it” (because you’ve succeeded in making it extremely inconvenient to use) is, to put it lightly, a pretty circular argument.

  • Bernard Finucane

    What’s really dumb is building roads for suburbanites. Insane waste of money.

  • Assbestos

    In case you weren’t aware, Silver Ave., just a block over, also happens to be a designated bike road, if you happen to be driving, biking, walking, etc. you’ll notice the speed limit is 18MPH, and bicycles get first priority. Sorry pal, this is happening, you’re just gonna have to get over it, it’s gonna be awesome!

  • SingleOccupantDriver

    Buses are great public service but in need of massive width correction. Like side-by-side seates cars, buses desparately need single-width redesign. http://www.commutercars.com

  • SingleOccupantDriver

    Driving and cars are smart. It’s the side-by-side seating in cars (and buses) that is extremely wasteful. Fortunately, there’s an innovative car that fixes the design flaw. It’s the 100% electric Tango from http://www.commutercars.com.

  • David

    ART will ruin the neighborhood? LOL! Have these people visited the city they call home? Compared to the many cities I’ve been to in 20 states and 15 countries and counting, ABQ was pretty underwhelming. Seemed like it could be nicer if it weren’t just one big strip mall. Hopefully this will help.

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