“The problems are much worse than I think anyone believed. … This project is a bit of a lemon”, so said Mayor Tim Keller about the ART Bus project during a 45 minute city hall news conference to discuss the ART Bus project.
Mayor Keller expressed concern that the problems associated with the ART Bus project are so extensive that it will not be fully operational and up and running for at least a full year.
Mayor Keller’s remark “This project is a bit of a lemon” will go down as one of the biggest understatements in the city’s history summarizing a construction boondoggle costing at least $130,000,000 and counting with the City still hoping for $50,000,000 from the Federal Transportation Administration.
COUNTING THE LEMONS
Following are the lemons that have been picked off the ART Bus Project lemon tree by the Keller Administration:
1. Out of the 20 buses that were supposed to be delivered on Oct. 3, 2017, the City has only received nine of the buses.
2. Out of the nine buses received, the city has found issues associated with those buses, everything from serious mechanical failures to some inconsistencies in how the buses are constructed.
3. The problems with the buses delivered are so extensive, the city ended up renting portable generators to power the buses in order to use them for the “River of Lights” holiday exhibition. The practice of using the generators had to be stopped by the City because it could compromise the busses warranty.
4. Some of the buses cannot be charged because the charging system do
5. Axles on the new buses delivered are leaking oil.
6. The buses have not gone through the certification process required in order for the city to be reimbursed for the buses by the federal government. One of the ART buses put through the certification process did not pass the inspection.
7. A third-party certification officer would not certify the electric battery chargers that have been installed for the reason that the chargers themselves are not operable because what was used were equipment parts manufactured in China that used different standards for how the equipment was built.
8. Fully charged batteries on the buses are supposed to last for 275 miles. Testing the city has done indicates that the charge is only good for 200 miles and the city will need additional buses for ART unless the problem is resolved.
9. Restraint belts that are used to keep wheelchairs locked in place while they’re in transit are in different locations in almost all the buses delivered.
10. The battery cages that house the bus batteries are starting to crack and separate.
11. There are problems with inconsistent height levels on some of the bus stop platforms creating problems for wheelchair accesses ability which is mandated on Federal funded transportation projects such as ART.
12. The Atrisco bus stop platform is at an angle which creates problems of accessibility for people in wheelchairs.
13. Major concerns about two of the bus stations have been raised because of the distance between the intersection and the actual platforms.
14. The Washington and Central platform is so close to the intersection that a bus coming from the east side going west can’t make the approach without taking up the entire intersection.
15. The mirrors on the ART buses are slamming into the pillars that hold up the fabric awnings at the bus stations constructed in the middle of Central and the stations will have to be altered so the mirrors are protected from damage.
16. The ART bus station at Central and Washington is too short and in order to get the 60-foot-long articulated buses into the station, bus drivers must make an “S” maneuver, which swerves the buses into regular traffic lanes increasing the risks of traffic accidents.
17. The station at Atrisco and Central is too long resulting in the ART bus going into the station tilted at a three-to-four degree angle resulting in the bus floor being a few inches higher than the station platform increasing the risk of injury to passengers boarding and exiting the buses.
18. There are gaps of at least three inches at some stations between the platform edge and the bus floor resulting in unsafe boarding and unloading conditions for people with disabilities.
COUNTING THE LIES
The entire ART Bus project was built on lies to the public by Mayor Richard Berry, his administration and the Albuquerque City Council.
Following are the lies followed by the truth:
1st lie: The Federal Transportation Administration (FTA) grant application for the project that said it will not be a controversial project and it has wide public support; TRUTH: Strong opposition occurred at five (5) public hearings with heated angry citizens.
2nd lie: There is no need for an environmental impact study; TRUTH: Businesses and citizens went to federal court and argued that such studies were indeed needed and required but the court said the requirement was waived by the FTA.
3rd lie: ART will not put people out of business nor affect businesses; TRUTH: Over 250 business say otherwise and many have lost as much as 25% to 50% of their business with others closing.
4th lie: ART will not reduce off street parking; TRUTH: There will be as many as 350 fewer parking spaces up central.
5th lie: ART will not ruin historic Route 66; TRUTH: It already has ruined historic Route 66 with the canopy bus stop design.
6th lie: The canopy bus stop design conforms with historical areas of central; TRUTH: The City’s Landmarks Commission asked for a new design.
7th lie: ART will not impact traffic; TRUTH: The city admitted in a public forum the project has a 19-year shelf life and that sooner rather than later the bus stops in the middle of central will have to be removed and traffic lanes will have to be rededicated to accommodate projected increases in traffic along central.
8th lie: ART will not impact emergency services; TRUTH: There is only one lane of traffic in each direction with no left turn lanes that will impair emergency services such as ambulance and police emergency calls.
9th lie: ART will cost only $129 million dollars; TRUTH: At least $7 million in hidden sewer line replacement and relocation costs were incurred and the project has now estimated to cost $135 million with overruns.
10th lie: There will be loans or grants to help businesses starting March 1, 2017; TRUTH: After much delay, the loan program was finally implemented on April 21, 2017 with many businesses unable to qualify and businesses already closed that needed the money.
11th lie: Construction will not start until after December 2016; TRUTH: The city started to tear up the streets and relocate water lines in September, 2016.
12th lie: Sidewalks will be widened for pedestrian traffic; TRUTH: Simply not true per the March 13, 2017 Albuquerque Journal article, page A-1 “ART ATTACK; Transit project failing to deliver on promises, business owner’s say”).
13th lie: The buses along Central are always full; TRUTH: Most people and businesses along Central reported the buses are empty most of the time and bus usage is actually declining.
14th lie: The ART bus project will be used by millennials; TRUTH: ART only affects a 9 mile stretch of Central and millennials use their own vehicles to go to work all over the city and not just up and down Central.
15th lie: This was Mayor Berry’s project and there is nothing the city council could do to stop the project; TRUTH: The City Council could have voted not to fund the project and actually funded the construction of the ART Bus project with at least $13 million in revenue bonds.
16th lie: There is no need to put the project to a public vote; TRUTH: Albuquerque historically has always put major capital improvement projects such as ART to a public vote.
17th lie: Congress will approve the $69 million-dollar grant; TRUTH: Congressional committees have cut $20 million dollars from the grant with no guarantee that it will be made up in next year’s budget resulting in Albuquerque having to identify additional funding sources to make up for the shortfall.
18th lie: The $129 million-dollar project will have long term economic development benefits and will create jobs; TRUTH: The project is nothing more than a single construction project that only benefited the construction industry for a short term of a year.
19th lie: The project has already generated millions in economic development; TRUTH: The Berry Administration is taking credit for millions of dollars of construction projects that were permitted and planned long before the ART Bus project saying the new construction is because of ART.
20th greatest lie: Mayor Berry proclaimed the project is a “world class” transportation project; TRUTH: ART is a cheesy nine-mile, $129 million bus route that is now costing $135 million. A “world class transportation project” costs billions of dollars like Denver’s and Phoenix’s light rail systems.
Mayor Keller needs to ask if they can paint bright lemon yellow the remaining buses that still need to be delivered.
The ART Bus project is not as much as a lemon as it is a dung pile left for Mayor Keller to clean up.
There are many more dung piles Mayor Keller will be stepping into including the Albuquerque Police Department, the $40 million projected budget shortfall and the Bio Park projects just to mention a few.