Albuquerque, like many cities, is looking at bus rapid transit as a cost-effective way to improve mobility and create a more walkable city. Its BRT plan calls for frequent service on a center-running bus lane along Central Avenue, the city’s busiest bus route, which passes through the heart of downtown.
The city has applied for funding from the Federal Transit Administration’s Small Smarts program. With $80 million in federal funds matched by $20 million in local funds, service could begin in 2017.
But the local conversation about the project has been hijacked by outside groups with an anti-transit agenda. The most outspoken critics are a couple of men with financial ties to — are you ready? — the Koch brothers, fitting a pattern recently seen in Nashville, Boston, and a lot of other places.
The first is Paul Gessing from the Rio Grande Foundation, the group leading organized opposition to the project. The Rio Grande Foundation is part of the State Policy Network, which the Center for Media and Democracy describes as “mini-Heritage Foundations” that are “major drivers of the right-wing, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)-backed corporate agenda in state houses nationwide, with deep ties to the Koch brothers and the national right-wing network of funders.”
Naturally, the Rio Grande Foundation trotted out professional transit basher Randall O’Toole — of the Koch-backed Cato Institute — who tweaked his anti-rail road show in this case to criticize the bus plan.