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)