Albuquerque Rapid Transit: An Update
Tuesday, June 30, 2015 at 09:47AM
Salley Trefethen in Walkable Neighborhood

by Moises A. Gonzales

As a matter of disclosure, I will begin by saying that I voted for a modern streetcar as a member of the 2008 Transportation Task Force. In creating a thriving urban core, having an attractive, quiet, modern conveyance on Central (a “pedestrian accelerator” in the parlance) is key. One can only imagine what an impact such
a project might have had on our stalling economy in terms of attracting investment and employers. (If you’re curious about those impacts, look into the streetcar that was built in Tucson.)

But that train has left the station. Mayor Berry campaigned against the streetcar and happily reported its demise when he came into office. Instead, Mayor Berry has pushed a different transit tool: Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). BRT is a bus line that runs in a dedicated lane like a train with its own track. The right-of-way travels in mixed traffic where the right-of-way is too narrow to allow a dedicated lane or lanes. Therein lies the disagreement that both the Huning Highland Neighborhood Association and the EDo Neighborhood Association have with ABQ Ride’s Bruce Rizzieri.

The neighborhood associations would like to see the bus move in mixed traffic through our section of Central (from Broadway to I-25), while ABQ Ride insists on a dedicated lane that will handle buses heading both east and west. Of course, there will be some signalization system that will prevent buses from colliding. Why does ABQ Ride want a dedicated lane? Their focus has always been on speed. The purpose of a dedicated lane, after all, is to allow buses to travel unimpeded.

Unfortunately, buses speeding down Central is the opposite of what our neighborhood needs. We are all for efficient transit, but not at the expense of pedestrian safety. Efficiency in this case will be increased by having riders pay at the platform instead of on the bus and by buses having priority at stop lights. It’s important to remember that there are miles and miles of Central Avenue that have more than adequate room for dedicated lanes. The so-called “slow down” in performance because of our little stretch is bogus.

But, as a friend of mine says, let’s look at the donut and not at the hole. Why do we, the residents and businesses along Central, want buses to move in mixed traffic? Because doing so gives us the opportunity to have a truly complete street: wider sidewalks, street trees, on-street parking, bicycle lanes, protected mid-block crossings and traffic-calming techniques. (To read more go to Complete Streets on the CABQ website: http://www.cabq.gov/ council/projects/completed-projects/2015/complete-streets/complete-streets). And guess what? That’s not only a good idea, it’s the law. Mayor Berry signed a Com- plete Street Ordinance that requires streets to be “designed and built to efficiently serve all users, including pedestrians, cyclists, transit riders and motorists.”

Furthermore, the City paid Jeff Speck, a nationally known urban planner and walkability expert, to study the city’s core and make recommendations for traffic improvements. His recommendation was that Central from Broadway to I-25 have buses move in mixed traffic, not in dedicated lanes. His recommendations were passed as a resolution (https://www.cabq.gov/council/documents/councilor-district-2-documents/R152.pdf), which clearly states: “The Downtown Walkability Analysis, attached hereto as Attachment 1, shall be considered the current policy document for the continued development, maintenance and upgrading of transportation facilities in the public right-of-way in Downtown.” With that noted, the big question is why are Bruce Rizzieri and ABQ Ride acting in direct contradiction to city law and city policy? 

Article originally appeared on HHHDA Neighborhood News and Views (http://www.hhhda.org/).
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