Albuquerque Rapid Transit has a new problem — traffic accidents

The troubled Albuquerque Rapid Transit system along Central Avenue (aka Route 66) saw a new problem pop up in less than two weeks of service — at least six traffic accidents.

KOAT-TV reported the sixth mishap Wednesday on the bus line since the service launched Nov. 30.

Almost all the accidents have been due to driver error — motorists turning into the dedicated bus lanes.

But a recent editorial in the Albuquerque Journal made good points. In short, ART remains confusing for many drivers, which is a recipe for crashes:

Right now, drivers on Central are inundated with a bewildering maze of signs and lane markers. In some places, an ART lane is painted reddish pink, but not others. In some, there’s an ART lane on both sides of the median; in others, it’s just on one.
It was a big ask to retrofit a circa 1937 major thoroughfare with a totally different traffic pattern, but with literally years of lead time (three to build, plus two to get diesel buses to replace the electric ones the city returned), this is the best we can do? […]
But it just may take an engineering fix, not a political one, to make the ART route an understandable one for locals and visitors alike. Because the system is hardly intuitive, even to alert and responsible drivers. City leaders need to ask the professionals – the traffic engineers among their ranks – to take a long hard look at recent accidents and determine whether signs, stripes or signals can be improved to prevent more.

The crashes are another in a list of complaints against ART.

Previous mayor Richard Berry, who shepherded ART into reality, led a ceremonial first ride on ART buses more than two years ago, but those electric vehicles were scrapped for traditional diesel buses because of serious design flaws. Several bus stops also had design flaws.

The Save Route 66 group, which opposed ART from the beginning, lists at least 60 businesses that closed in the wake of more than a year of its disruptive construction.

Last month, a fired traffic engineer filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the city and several officials, alleging shortcuts were made with ART at the cost of safety, including two pedestrian deaths.

(Screen-capture image from surveillance video of a pickup truck that crashed into an Albuquerque Rapid Transit bus)

8 thoughts on “Albuquerque Rapid Transit has a new problem — traffic accidents

  1. “City leaders need to ask the professionals – the traffic engineers among their ranks – to take a long hard look at recent accidents and determine whether signs, stripes or signals can be improved to prevent more.”

    This reminds me of instruction books written by the designers of anything from a central heating boiler to a mobile phone; instead of by people who have never seen the things before, but will be using them.

    The “city leaders” need to ask both professional drivers – taxi drivers, van drivers, truck drivers, even the bus drivers themselves – and ordinary mum and dad car drivers, motorcyclists, etc for their views.

    In the UK, there is little consistency about bus lanes; but red tarmac is one fairly common marker. red tarmac has the advantage of standing out from the normal black, or blackish road surface – but it needs to be totally consistent.

    The number of, and positioning of, and lighting of road signs are crucial to safety. Overload drivers’ minds and accidents are more likely to happen.

    Why are the buses painted such a dull colour? Why not yellow, as with school buses? And make the paint fluorescent or otherwise highly reflective. Do the buses always run with their headlights on? At all times? They should do.

  2. The whole issue starts with that they put the bus lanes on the inside lanes, not the outside lanes where normal bus lanes are put everywhere else. That not only makes these bus lanes unusable for normal busses designed to have passenger doors on the right side of the bus.

    As left turns are slow compared to right turns, they didn’t want the cars making a left turn or u-turn in the bus lane waiting for an opportunity to make the turn, so they banned them completely and that’s where it fails by design.

    There’s but two solutions:
    – give up on it. If central really needs bus lanes put them on the right lanes and allow other drivers to make a right turn from those lanes. They then can also use all the regular busses in there as well.
    – block off the bus lanes to make is impossible for cars to enter the bus lanes. Do note that also removes the ability for e.g. emergency services to use those lanes to get to where they need to be fast.

  3. The 60 supposed closed businesses that the anti-ART organization lists on its website is complete nonsense. It’s more like 5 businesses that closed and cited ART as the main reason for their closure. Their list includes the Desert Sands Motel, which burned down due to arson. The National Institute of Flamenco and Tierra Adentro, both of which moved to the Sawmill Area after years of planning to do so. They list Crepes, Crepes twice and don’t even get its name right either time. It also moved, it didn’t close. Staples, Kurt’s Camera Corral, Gravy, Elsa Ross, Satellite Coffee, Morningside Antiques, Nosh Deli, Disco Display House, Loving Vegan, BZ Skateshop, Golden Eagle Trading Company, Shade Tree Customs & Cafe, The Magic and Juggling Shop, etc. all closed before ART even began construction. There’s many more on the list whose closure had nothing to do with ART or which occurred years before it even began construction, I’m sure. It’s outrageous the lies that the media are repeating and reporting as fact without questioning and looking into the veracity of these bogus claims.

  4. All of the 6 incidents so far have not been the fault of the ART buses involved, but rather the inattentive and bad drivers of the other cars.

  5. None of which negates the shambles that ART has been since it was dreamed up by a mayor who saw it as his pet vanity project.

  6. What exactly do you know about how ART came about? Do you know that it was the cheaper alternative chosen over a $250 million streetcar project proposal under Mayor Chavez, which critics called a “choo choo” and “trolly” in order to deride the idea of building it? Do you know that the City Council voted to scrap the idea of building a streetcar in 2010 as being too costly and that an alternative was needed in order to replace the Rapid Ride, which was always supposed to be temporary until either a streetcar or light rail was built on Central? Mayor Berry, the Transit Department, city planners and the City Council all had a hand in choosing a BRT line as a cheaper and less disruptive alternative to a streetcar or light rail line along Central. A streetcar or light rail llne would’ve taken longer to build, caused more road closures and necessitate overhead wires, thus impacting and changing Central Avenue even more than ART did. ART was less than half the cost of a streetcar and is a bus system, facts which amaze me that anyone could ever call it a vanity project. It was the culmination of nearly two decades of planning to improve transit capacity and flow along Central Avenue under three different mayors, so how anyone can call it a pet project is beyond me.

  7. Abqalex – exactly what I know about ART is what I have been reading here and elsewhere for the past three years. That Berry was able to walk away with no personal financial penalty is typical of public officials world-wide not be held liable for their failures. The Transit Dept, “city planners” and other taxpayer-funded council workers have not been affected financially by the failure.

    In London, UK, a long gone mayor had his failed vanity project – a tram (street car) line that would have closed main roads to all other traffic, sending the large lorries, vans and cars through a maze of residential roads. The cost of the cancelled project was going to be £200,000,000; £30,000,000 had been spent on it before its cancellation.

    Apart from the way ART was incorporated into the already existing road network (with the accidents, etc) there has been the fiasco over the failed battery-powered buses at $1.2 million apiece. Berry was quite happy to use taxpayers’ money for what surely were “vanity” buses. No matter how clean the buses may have been in operation, they still had to be built, and the electricity they would have used would still have needed generating.

    If the city wanted an alternative to what it already had, there would have been disruption of one sort or another. There were tried and workable systems that could have been used, but all the innovation and untried technology was the downfall of ART: revolution, not evolution.

    While trams (streetcars) may suit some cities with the existing roads able to accommodate them and other traffic, I expect the 2010 project was rightly cancelled. With proven modern technology, trolleybuses (electric, with overhead wires) are in use world-wide. Able to leave the wires and run on battery power when needed, they are clean in themselves and highly efficient. That would have been my suggestion for Albuquerque.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.