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Route 66 News

Albuquerque mayor wants rapid-transit buses on Central

Rapid Ride, Albuquerque

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)

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12 thoughts on “Albuquerque mayor wants rapid-transit buses on Central

  1. Kev

    I hope them good luck with that. But I too expect a horror show. We have something similar along our main road, in a boro of NYC (~500,000 people). The city officials also thought that “If you build it, they will come.” Not true. There’s two dedicated bus only lanes, and if you look in the buses are aren’t any additional passengers that weren’t there before. Plus rush hour has been extended by at least 1 hour, as all the traffic is stuffed into 2 lanes, rather than three. Our officials refuse to do away with it despite it’s failure, I hope ABQ will do away with theirs once it’s realized it doesn’t work.

  2. ja's ink

    A more attractive and safer walking route, safe biking lanes, AND safer driving lanes along Central would be a much better plan, imo. Nice thing about Central Ave. is that it’s always been drivable / cruise-able (with parking).
    They wisely added rapid bus lines already connecting ABQ to downtown, UNM, up Central, etc. Is there even demand for more?

  3. delhawk

    Why should the rest of the country subsidize 80% of the project? If it is such a good idea, then let the people of ABQ pay for it themselves. Public transit projects, bike ways, etc. are the reason the Highway Trust fund is bankrupt and Congress is sniffing around for a gas tax increase.

    1. Ron Warnick Post author

      Delhawk, that’s an inherently flawed argument. If highways and other projects were “let the people there pay for it,” Route 66 never would have existed.

      And the Highway Trust Fund is broke because of declining revenue, not because of overspending.

  4. DynoDave

    I tend to agree with you on this one, delhawk. Yes sir, I’m hopping on the pink city bus and heading down to the TNA shop! Classy.

    Ron, the fund is what it is…if revenue is down, then spending should be too, until additional finding is found, and approved by voters and their representatives. If more funding is not forthcoming, then taking on new spending projects like this…and high speed trains to Chicago…and light rail in Detroit…Vs maintaining what you have, is not wise.

    1. Ron Warnick Post author

      Part of the problem is funding has dropped so much, even basic maintenance is getting the short thrift. The Missouri Department of Transportation is facing this very problem right now. The Gasconade River Bridge near Hazelgreen just sitting there, decaying, because there’s no money to fix it. This sort of stuff is having a real impact on Route 66.

      People wanted drive more fuel-efficient engines. They have them now, but there was a significant trade-off.

      The obvious solution is to stop spending so much money on defense, and plowing that savings back into the basic infrastructure of this country and some deficit reduction, while we’re at it.

  5. delhawk

    Thank you understood the point of my comment. Route 66 existed before there was significant Federal funding of highways which began in 1956 with the establishment of the Highway Trust Fund mainly to fund the construction of the Eisenhower Interstate Highway System. Which was the death knell for Route 66 as a US highway. Unfortunately Ronald Reagan signed into law in 1982 an increase in the fuel tax that began providing fuel tax to mas transit projects and all kinds of other “transportation” projects. If fuel tax had been 100% allocated for highway infrastructure we would not be in the position we are in. $100 million for ABQ does not make sense because there is no money. The Federal government has no business funding mass transit projects.

    1. Ron Warnick Post author

      Funding of Route 66 began long before the establishment of the Highway Trust Fund during the 1950s. In fact, the commissioning of U.S. 66 and other federal highways in 1926 was done with the tacit understanding of future funding. This was all spelled out in “The Big Roads” book.

  6. DynoDave

    I totally understand the road funding issue Ron. Michigan roads are among the worst in the country, with long cold winters, lots of heavy truck (manufacturing) traffic, a shrinking/aging population, and little money to spend to maintain what we have. Our Congress and Governor, even with party unity, have not been able to come up with a financing solution (yet, but I think they will, as we finally have a Governor who wants to get problems solved, and have a 5 year track record of doing so). A complex series of tax changes, an massive aggregate increase (of course), failed BIG at the polls last fall, all of it was to be spent on fixing roads. So I live with the results of this every day.

    But you are making my point for me. If the funding for basic maintenance is not there, having “dropped so much”, why in the world dabble in expensive new expansions? Locally, the light rail for Detroit is a HUGE expense, lots of FEDERAL money getting poured into Detroit, money taken from people all over the country with their own transportation problems, and a huge new legacy program to maintain financially, and the thing will never reach break-even. It will be a financial burden for decades to come.

    If your family budget is too tight due to credit card debt, is more long term expense/debt the answer to getting out of that problem? Of course not. Detroit made this mistake for decades…kicking the budget can down the road, buried alive in debt, refinancing it again and again, with less and less money left to service those living here now. It took bankruptcy to turn that around. It was clearly the right thing to do for the city, and they are much better off today for it, but they had to be taken there kicking and screaming. They wanted the failed status quo no matter what. Our nation is on the same path, ala Greece, and people for whatever reason, just don’t see it coming. They appear to believe that we can go on forever borrowing 50cents of every dollar we spend. And, of the 50cents we pretend we have, printing a good portion of that. It’s financial madness. We are stealing from citizens who have not even been born yet, burying our children, grandchildren, and later generations in OUR debt so that WE can live more comfortably NOW, at their expense later. Sorry kids. It’s so morally corrupt, it nearly beyond a description. But it’s become so much the norm, that no one bats an eye.

    And we do not see eye to eye on military expenditures. It is no more of a legitimate “plan” to fix transportation budgets by stealing from defense (especially at a time when we face more threats, in more forms, from more places than ever before) than it is to steal it from Social Security, FDA, or any other place in the budget. To do so is the ultimate in weak leadership.

    But I still like you. And your blog! : – )

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