What's going on, Albuquerque?
Most people ride the Central line because it's so reliable--you never wait 30 minutes for a bus (even if you just missed one). It's so well served because the city has invested so much in that one line. Invest in the others and ridership will increase overall. I'd like to see some routes going North-South as well as all the other lines folks have talked about here. We're going to a meeting tonight and hopefully something good will come out of it.
Maybe I'm in the minority, but I think that most people want to take public transit--it's easier, no parking hassle and less expensive--but no one wants to wait forever for a bus to come.
Dan, I'm aware that the Central routes have long had more substantial ridership than other parts of the city, but the increase in those numbers in the last few years is the result of consistent, reliable service. As Krista points out, people use those buses in droves because they don't have to wait 30 (or 40 or 50) minutes to do so. The reliability of the routes increases ridership. It's time for the city to focus resources elsewhere.
I disagree with the idea that the city should have to wait until an entirely new system (a system which appears to be spatially infeasible for sections of Central) is installed along an already well-served route in order to free up rapid ride buses to use on other routes. The city should be investing in new buses for new rapid ride routes. While there might be federal dollars available, the city will certainly have to contribute and I think those funds are better spent increasing service in other parts of the city, which will have the same effect of increasing ridership there as the addition of rapid ride to Central did.
We went to the meeting and the general public consensus seemed to be that we all love public transit, but we want to see new lines open up elsewhere in the city--take off some of the pressure from Central and see ridership increase elsewhere. And the feel that I got from the representative was: "It's Central or nothing." (I'm obviously over-simplifying things and including my opinions here).
He did say that other entities such as the County, MRCOG, Rio Rancho, etc. are doing studies on other major streets, but that ABQ Ride was only focused on Central. So, maybe someday Rapid Rides will be implemented on other streets, but it won't be the doing of ABQ Ride.
Kenny hit the nail on the head here but there's even more to it. Transit in general is most successful in places where parking costs money. Downtown and UNM happen to be the only two major nodes in town that I can think of which have this policy (Nob Hill also to a certain extent). They also happen to be the core of the Central corridor and the main reason this corridor is so successful.
The other reason why UNM is such a huge transit trip attractor is due to the free service ABQ Ride provides to them; this is the only reason there is crowding on the 5. However, ABQ Ride does not receive additional revenue for each additional UNM passenger; they receive a fixed sum from the university which does not come close to covering the cost of these riders. Unless UNM increases the subsidy they pay to ABQ Ride, ABQ Ride will be reluctant to increase capacity to serve these people.
Krista and Hettie, I do agree; why wait to add Rapid Ride? If you added these services to Montgomery and San Mateo today, I think these corridors would definitely see more ridership. Would the ridership match Central? It's doubtful. So, in an era of scare resources, the city focuses on the corridor where it's guaranteed ridership will increase, a corridor where parking costs money.
Hettie, regarding the other entities: when (if?) the Montaño Rail Runner station gets built, Rio Metro will beef up the buses on Montgomery/Montaño. Until then, probably nothing.
In my opinion, parking policy is a huge part of all of this. For more info, read stuff by Donald Shoup. His book, The High Cost of Free Parking, details how "free parking" has ruined many elements of our urban areas.
//The other reason why UNM is such a huge transit trip attractor is due to the free service ABQ Ride provides to them; this is the only reason there is crowding on the 5.//
I beg to differ there, Dan. The #5 was the second busiest route in the system for years before the UNM bus passes. I think it's popular because it serves a route with a great deal of destinations. You have food service and retail (both for buying and working), public schools and the university, apartment buildings, and hospitals. Improving public transit - on that corridor and the overall system - would probably have a terrific impact on economic development and quality of life.
San Mateo is another route that meets that criteria, and many other major corridors mentioned in this thread. Thankfully, it appears that local agencies are investigating the feasibility of improved transit on those streets.
The city's transit map, unfortunately, is built almost entirely on a radial model where the routes thread east and west from the Alvarado Transit Center. While the ATC is immensely valuable to the system, the lack of north-south routes forces people to bus all the way into downtown to transfer to another route. If the city is truly committed to improving ridership and increasing convenience of service, they need to find a way to overlay more of a grid on top of the radiants.
Ultimately, the presenters at the public meeting failed to explain how a BRT system can solve any of the problems the bus system has that the current Rapid Rides cannot. In my mind, the justification for the level of improvements they seek is nonexistent.
I'm on the Transit Board, and adding parallel routes to Central was discussed - we thought that increased service on Lomas might take the pressure off of Central, since every NE north/south route crossed that route, and it runs to UNM and the hospital, as well as downtown. I do think that transit dept is thinking that increasing service on Central is the way to go, but I think it would disrupt parking/traffic too much. And increasing service on Montgomery was also discussed.
Dan, I've got to back Benny up here: your supposition about UNM's impact on traffic on the #5 bus is totally wrong. I've been a regular rider along most of that route for almost 6 years. The areas with the most crowding are consistently between Carlisle and Menaul (lots of traffic to and from the Walmart there) and about Montgomery and Wyoming.
Your points about density are well-taken, but the #5 passes through several relatively dense areas. From I-25 to about Wyoming, Montgomery is basically lined on both sides by large apartment complexes, many of which house seniors, immigrants, lower-income folks, and others who may not have access to cars. The bus is frequently standing-room-only at rush hour as it passes through this corridor, and is quite crowded throughout the day as well. During the academic year the #5 carries quite a few students on their way to CNM Montoya (Montgomery/Morris), but otherwise the influence of CNM or UNM on ridership is pretty negligible.
Because of the lower-income areas it serves, the #5 is increasingly a lifeline for people who don't have other easy transportation options. The more dependable and frequent it becomes, the more the residents of the apartment complexes and other nearby areas will rely on the bus for shopping, errands, and just general getting around. To me, that is more important and meaningful for transit in Albuquerque than doubling or tripling down on transit along Central. Central is already very well served. There are other areas that sorely need transit improvement that should be addressed before we start elaborating service in areas that don't necessarily need it.
The conversation here reminds me that part of why I like this city so much is the people who live here. Discussions like these are something I've long missed on DCF. Here's hoping someone from ABQ Ride has checked out this thread!
Benny: You're completely right, I shouldn't have said the only reason. It's definitely a contributor though. The radial system is a problem but ABQ Ride routes are actually pretty distributed; frequency is the issue. For example, you could hypothetically take the Juan Tabo route and connect with the Lomas route. The issue of course is frequency. It would take hours to go such a short distance; no one with other options would do so.
Phil_0: I agree completely. It is one of the densest parts of the city and needs more capacity and frequency.
Shotsie: What came of these conversations? Was there any support in ABQ Ride for these alternatives? Are the notes from these meetings public record?
I agree with what everything everyone is saying: there needs to be more frequency and capacity on many corridors, not just Central. However, Central is our Main Street. I think it has so much untapped potential that could be unlocked with actually rapid transit, not just these half-ass Rapid Ride buses. It it was actually faster to take transit vs. driving on any one corridor in ABQ, it would completely change the whole conversation about transit in this city. If people actually chose to get on the bus because it was providing a better service than driving vs. just using it because they have to, there could potentially be much more support for transit in this city.
Central is the best corridor for this experiment and therefore I support this BRT project. However, I support it reluctantly. The Montgomery corridor is sorely in need of more frequency and capacity and I feel like the city could finagle some way to do the BRT on Central AND add some Rapid Ride on the #5 route. I hate that conversations in transit in this city are so often about sacrifices and tradeoffs.
Hettie: Me too! I've learned a lot in this thread.
Looking at the system in Bogota has me more excited about bus rapid transit in Albuquerque. http://www.streetfilms.org/bus-rapid-transit-bogota/
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