On December 12, 2018, the Keller Administration announced it wants to make use of the unused ART Bus lanes and platforms on Central until new buses arrive.
There are 20 empty or unused ART platform bus stations along the 9-mile Central Ave route, all with electric utilities, including neon lighting and police monitors with adjoining dedicated bus lanes.
It could be another 18 months before new diesel-fueled ART buses from manufacturer New Flyer are manufactured, delivered and running full service along the 9-mile Central Avenue ART Bus route.
You can review news coverage here:
The newly ordered New Flyer buses have a base price of $870,000, which is $500,000 less than the original electric buses.
CITY PROPOSES TEMPORARY ALTERNATIVE USE FOR THE PLATFORMS
The city will not allow use of the dedicated ART Bus lanes for regular traffic.
Mayor Tim Keller proclaims that even while there’s no bus movement in the ART lanes, it is still illegal to drive in them by crossing the double white lines and rumble strips.
Instead, Mayor Keller announced he wants to open the tens of millions of dollars of ART Bus infrastructure to local businesses, artists and anyone who wants to apply for a temporary permit for an event.
Permits to locate a “small pop-up business” at any one of the bus stops is also being considered.
According to ABQ Ride Public Information Officer Rick De Reyes:
“Marathons, 5 or 10K runs, for getting music and bands on the platforms, maybe to pop up events for businesses and even art shows, things like that [can be considered] … They’re trying to find a way to be able to block off the street in such a way that some cars can run on Central or that there will be detours … “
According to a Municipal Development spokesman, the city would assist to protect those hosting and attending events.
Safety barricades, security personnel or an Albuquerque Police Department presence is being suggested.
The city would also work to alert and educate drivers passing by the festivities.
The Department of Municipal Development is working out the permitting process, including the cost and how the city might redirect traffic for these proposed events and pop-ups.
The city is hoping to have events and pop-ups by springtime.
It’s also looking at issuing temporary permits to businesses along Central so they can load and unload merchandise from the ART lanes.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
Growing up, I often heard parents say “Do not play in the middle of the street!”
This recent proposal of using the ART Bus platforms makes it appear that the Keller Administration wants us all to go play in the middle of the street.
At first blush, from a civil liability standpoint, it does not sound too bright using public mass transportation infrastructure in the very middle of the street for private businesses and functions, especially when the city says it will provide safety barricades, security personnel or an Albuquerque Police Officer.
Central is congested enough as it is with the bus stations, and added functions or businesses to them is nothing more than a lawsuit ready to happen, just ask any personal injury lawyer in the city.
Once the city assists to protect those hosting and attending events on the city owned and maintained platforms it is assuming an extent of liability if and when someone gets hurt.
Allowing unloading activities on dedicated bus lanes is probably just as illegal as to drive in them by crossing the double white lines and rumble strips as Keller argues.
Mayor Keller needs to cut our losses as best he can and scrap ART as much as he can wherever he can and business pop ups is not a solution, temporary as it may be.
The City has already completed and paid for all the construction and it will never recoup the estimated $110 million paid out, but would be wise not to spend another $25 million for the new buses ordered.
Mayor Keller has said that too much has been spent on the entire ART Bus project and it would be too costly to restore Central and to remove the platforms.
Keller has repeatedly suggested in public it would cost as much as $200 million to return Central to the way it was, a figure that is highly questionable, especially given the fact that it will eventually have to happen anyway.
What Keller apparently does not know or just chooses to ignore is that a traffic study of the project found that the project has a 20-year shelf life.
Because of projected population growth and traffic flows along Central, one lane each way, as opposed to the original two, the platforms will sooner rather than later have to be removed to accommodate the increased traffic.
Within 12 years the buses will have to be replaced.
In general, transit systems expect buses to have a useful life of 12 years or a little less depending on wear and tear and 250,000 miles.
The 12-year time frame is due to the fact that after buses have been used for 12 years, a city is eligible to receive replacement bus funding from the federal government.
Common sense dictates that the dedicated buses lanes for ART should be opened up for all traffic use and not any other function.
City Hall needs to rededicate the bus lanes for all traffic and do its best to restore Route 66.
The Keller Administration should explore if the center bus platform stops can be modified permanently with a totally new purpose and a permanent alternative found.
The platforms have utilities installed that could be used for other purposes.
Tearing down the ART Bus stop platforms would have too much of another negative impact on Route 66 businesses, and so will allowing “pop up” businesses to compete with Central store front businesses and parking.
Examples of new dedicated purposes for the platforms could be elevated landscaping with distinctive lighting fixtures or use the platforms for large sculptures that would commemorate Route 66.
Mayor Keller proclaimed the BYD Buses as unsafe at any speed but apparently feels it’s alright and safe to play in the middle of the street.