Next 5 Steps for Creating a Transit System in Albuquerque

– And Why They Are Critical to the Future of Our City

By the Urban ABQ Communications and Outreach Committee

Click/tap on any image in this article to enlarge

A rapid transit network should connect our regional job centers

Despite multiple years of job growth, Albuquerque is still lagging behind our peer cities when it comes to our local economy.

From Houston to Denver to Phoenix to Los Angeles, cities in our region and across the country, cities with fast growing economies, are investing in regional rapid transit networks. They are doing much more than building single lines or projects. Instead, they are creating networks to connect their job centers.

An effective public transportation system can help our city, making Albuquerque work for the businesses and people who are here now, and for those that might want to join us in the future. For all its controversies, the Albuquerque Rapid Transit is an important first step towards building the transit system of the future.

Transit systems should, fundamentally, increase access to the city for the people within it. There are many ways to increase access to services, one of which is changing land use, something our recently updated zoning code and comprehensive plan attempts to address. However, changing land use takes a long time. If we want to quickly connect more people in Albuquerque to more opportunities, creating a transit network is essential. Of course, there are many other major benefits to creating a transit network, including a fast track towards cleaner air and less pollution.

In short, construction on Central is complete. Soon, clean quiet all-electric buses will arrive, and rapid transit service on Central between Unser, Tramway and Uptown will begin.

It is time to start thinking about the Future of Transit in ABQ

According to various reports and studies, the Next 5 Steps for improving the transit system in Albuquerque should be:

  1. Support Rapid Transit on the Central Corridor– Do whatever it takes to make the spine of Albuquerque’s rapid transit system functional, successful and useful; support our other existing rapid transit, the Blue Line Rapid Ride on Coors, as well
  2. Fast-track Sunport/University/North I-25 Rapid Transit – Fast-track development of proposed BRT line, connecting the Sunport to UNM; quickly extend the project to the North I-25 corridor, one of the largest job centers in the state; eventually extend service across Paseo del Norte to the Westside and beyond.
  3. Add Rapid Ride/express service on San Mateo – 2nd highest ridership corridor in the City by far; connects to the North I-25 corridor, one of the largest job centers in the state.
  4. Add Service to Westgate/the SW Mesa – Coors, 98th, Unser or another corridor; add service to this fast-growing, population dense, low/moderate income area. Connect these neighborhoods to rapid transit on Central Ave.
  5. Add Rapid Ride/express service on Montgomery/Montaño – 3rd highest ridership corridor in the City; connects to some of the highest population densities in Albuquerque.

Q: Why These 5?

A: Job Access

These Next 5 Steps connect most major job centers in Albuquerque with our existing rapid transit lines on Central, Louisiana and Coors.

Amazon stated its clear preference to open their new HQ2 in a city with good transportation access generally and with a robust transit network specifically. These Top 5 Next Steps don’t only connect job centers- they also connect areas of high population density, places where many people live, making these expansions cost effective.

These 5 recommendations are not arbitrary. They are a part of the Mid Region Council of Governments (MRCOG) “2040 Conceptual Transit Network,” a part of MRCOG’s frequently updated Long Range Transportation Plan for the Albuquerque region:

Long Range Transportation Plan for Albuquerque Region

You can see the “Next 5 improvements” on this map, along with a host of others. Extensive research and data analysis was used to create this Long Term Transportation plan. It considers many factors including future population growth, population density, job density and much more. You can clearly see Central Avenue on here, as it is the spine of Albuquerque’s transit system.

Click here to read the entire Long Range Transportation Plan, a vision for the Future of Albuquerque.

And now, the Top 5:

  1. Support Transit on the Central corridor
  • As a community, we must support transit on the Central corridor
  • Add/improve service to people on East Central, between Louisiana and Tramway – gaps in Rapid Ride/A.R.T. service plan
  • Could mean tweaking the design for some parts of the A.R.T. project; might mean adding physical separation to keep cars out of the bus lanes (self-watering concrete planters, anyone?).
  • High quality, safe, frequent transit on Central Ave is essential to a successful transit system for all people in Albuquerque

2.  Fast-track Sunport/University/North I-25 Rapid Transit 

UNM/CNM/Sunport Transit Plan
  • Years of design, research have already gone into this project, an important part of the transit network, as recently discussed on the local news.
  • Click here to see the project website
  • Would serve many major underserved job centers, including the Airport, CNM and UNMH
  • Project currently stops at Menaul and University; would be much more successful if it continued to Journal Center, using I-25 Frontage Road as an express route, and using existing bus stops on Jefferson. This would dramatically increase people using the service, and provide access to far more jobs.
  • Eventually, this route needs to be extended across the river on Paseo del Norte. This is the long-term plan for this corridor, as noted by the Mid Region Council of Governments in this graphic:
Planned Rapid Transit Corridors in Albuquerque
  • Recommended action: Fast-track design, construction of the Sunport/University rapid transit line; fast-track expansion of this line to the North I-25 corridor/Journal Center

3.  Add Rapid Ride/express service on San Mateo

  • San Mateo, by large margin, has 2nd highest ridership of any corridor in the City (after Central Ave) – click here to see “ridership by route” from ABQ RIDE
  • Serves Journal Center, one of the largest job centers in the region, as shown in graphic at beginning of article
  • Recommended action: Fast-track Rapid Ride on this entire corridor; expand service all the way to the northern edge of Albuquerque, a fast growing job center; use it as a “test” for future North I-25 rapid transit line

4.  Add Service to Westgate/the SW Mesa

  • Improve service on 98th, Coors or another corridor in this area
  • One of the fastest growing parts of Albuquerque and home to a high percentage of our local workforce
  • Higher population density than other fast-growing parts of Albuquerque
  • Compared to other parts of Albuquerque, the people of Westgate need more transit access and services
Map of poverty rates across Albuquerque
  • Due to proximity, it would be affordable to better connect Westgate to Central Avenue, the spine of Albuquerque’s transit system, by adding transit service to this area
  • Recommended action: Add service to Route 198 (or another route, as determined by minor additional analysis) to better connect these neighborhoods to Central Ave.

5.  Add Rapid Ride/express service on Montgomery/Montaño

Population Density Albuquerque
  • 3rd highest ridership transit route/corridor in the city (after San Mateo and Central)
  • Serves multiple high population and job density areas
  • Recommended action: Fast-track Rapid Ride on the existing #5 bus route (Montgomery/Carlisle/Lomas); at Lomas, route the Rapid Ride south on University to CNM as a way to “test” high capacity transit on the University corridor before building the University/Sunport BRT:
Proposal for Montgomery/Carlisle/ Lomas + University Rapid Ride line

Would You Like To See This Happen?

Do you like this plan? Vote in the poll below- and be sure to give us your thoughts in the comments section.

A rapid transit network should connect our regional job centers

Thoughts/questions? Email us: urbanabq505@gmail.com

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3 thoughts on “Next 5 Steps for Creating a Transit System in Albuquerque”

  1. This is a pretty comprehensive list of reasons why Albuquerque will continue to fall further and further behind other regional cities. ART has killed any prospect of further rapid transport development for at least a generation. Parents should encourage their talented children to flee.

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