Albuquerque Mayor Richard Perry this week pitched a $100 million plan to spur economic development along the city’s Route 66 corridor — two lanes of dedicated bus lines to mimic a light-rail system.
The bus system would cover a 10-mile stretch of Central Avenue between Louisiana and Coors streets, according to the Albuquerque Journal.
City officials say they hope to secure about $80 million in federal money, with the rest from the city or other sources. It would cost about $2 million a year to operate, though the city might seek federal money to offset that, too. […]
The buses would have their own dedicated lanes, one in each direction, throughout 90 percent of the route, leaving fewer lanes for cars, trucks and other traffic. […]
There would be 25 stations in a 15-mile stretch, with buses running every seven to nine minutes, Berry said.
Berry cites a study that says Albuquerque is ranked last among 20 Western cities among national investors because it lacks a high-density, transit-rich environment. Berry argues a vigorous bus-transit system on Central would help solve that problem and make Albuquerque more attractive to big business.
Business owners along Central say they’re skeptical of Berry’s plan because taking up two lanes for buses would discourage motorists from driving on Central and depress shopping there.
Consider me one of the skeptics. Berry can try to dress up the buses as quasi-trains all he wants, but it’s still a bus. Buses never will be as desirable to middle- and upper-class residents as trains. Wishing for buses to be more palatable to the masses doesn’t make it so.
Taking up two lanes for buses likely will cause more problems than it will solve. Central Avenue remains a busy main artery in Albuquerque, and making it tougher to drive on it won’t make residents or Route 66 tourists happy.
And having what he calls a “transit rich” environment works only if the city involved has a high-density population. Mass transit is an easier sell in congested cities such as Chicago, St. Louis, San Francisco and New York City. But Albuquerque averages fewer than 3,000 residents per square mile — not close to those cited.
Albuquerque also recently was ranked fifth in the nation as commuter-friendly. That’s not an environment where people will use mass transit.
If Berry wants to dedicate one lane of Central to a trolley system, I’d be more inclined to listen. But using two lanes for a bus system will be — in Berry’s words — a “game changer,” but not in the way he envisioned.
I’d be happy to be wrong. If you think I am, please explain why in the comments section.
(Image of a Rapid Ride bus along Albuquerque’s Central Avenue by David via Flickr)