ABQ Ride Celebrates Golden Anniversary on Feb. 1

Jan. 30, 2015

As far as birthdays go, 50 is a major milestone. And so it goes for ABQ Ride, the city of Albuquerque’s Transit Department. On Feb. 1, it celebrates 50 years of serving Albuquerque’s public transportation needs.

The Albuquerque Transit System, as it was officially known back then, came into being on Feb. 1, 1965. That’s when company president A. P. FitzGerald handed over the keys of the Albuquerque Bus Co. (and Suburban Bus Lines) to City Commission Chairman Archie Westfall in a City Hall ceremony.

“As Albuquerque has evolved and grown, so has the way the citizens of Albuquerque commute,” said Mayor Richard J. Berry. “We look forward to another 50 years of premium service from ABQ RIDE as we continue to flourish and strive for efficient public transportation.”

It’s been a long road for ABQ RIDE in establishing such a premium service. The fledgling Albuquerque Transit System began with 60 buses and 80 drivers. By fiscal year 1971, it was reporting over 2.6 million passenger boardings. By 1973, the department was known as Sun Tran.

Significant milestones:

  • 1965: Albuquerque Transit organizes its own Luminaria Tour (complementing existing Chamber tour)
  • 1976: Sun Tran makes its first, major bus buy: 52 T6H-4523A’s, with air conditioning
  • 1984: Ridership tops 4 million; Buses routed off Central Ave and onto Gold & Copper Avenues
  • 1989: Major site expansion of Yale Bus Facility; includes drivers’ lounge and more office space
  • 1992: Sun Van ADA service transitioned from traditional Sun Van elderly & handicapped service
  • 1996: Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) filling station completed at Yale, 1st of its kind for City of Albuquerque fleets
  • 2002: Alvarado Transportation Center opens in Downtown Albuquerque
  • 2004: Uptown Transit Center opens
  • Sept., 2004: Sun Tran renamed ABQ RIDE
  • Dec., 2004: First of three Rapid Rides begins service
  • 2005: Daytona Bus Facility/Phase 1 dedicated and officially opened
  • 2007: UNM and CNM enter into a funding agreement with ABQ RIDE for use of service by students (staff & UNMH employees included in 2008)
  • 2008: Northwest Transit Center opens
  • 2010: Central and Unser Transit Center (in use since 2004) upgraded with new lots and bus island
  • Jan., 2011: Three new routes serve Southern and Unser in Rio Rancho; a joint effort with Rio Metro Regional Transit District
  • Nov., 2011: Concept announced for Albuquerque Rapid Transit down Central Ave.
  • April, 2012: Ticket vending machines introduced to Central & Unser, Uptown and Northwest 

Transit Centers

  • June, 2012: ABQ RIDE app for iPhones introduced (Android app debuts in Dec., 2013)
  • Dec. 2012: Passenger boardings top 13 million for a 12 month period for the first time in history
  • Feb., 2013: TXT2RIDE texting service introduced
  • April, 2014: Montaño Transit Center opens
  • April, 2014: Free ridership extended to veterans in the VA health care system

Bus service in Albuquerque actually dates back to New Year’s Day, 1928. That’s when a group of owners introduced 10 buses to serve the growing city. They only had a few days to drive them from Casper, Wyoming along poor roads to be able to make the company’s promised opening day.

In 1945, Joseph P. Land and another group bought the Albuquerque Bus Co. They added new buses, increased service from 12 to 32 square miles and moved operations from a tiny garage at 3rd and Silver SW to a bigger facility at 601 Yale SE. In 1955, upon the death of Land, his son-in-law A.P. FitzGerald became president.

“It was very much a real ‘mom and pop’ operation, even up to 1965,” said Dick FitzGerald, son of A.P. FitzGerald. “My father would frequently be out in the garage, his arms deep in the bus engines. There were fewer than a hundred employees and Dad was on a first name basis with everybody.”

But by the early 1960s, rising operating costs threatened to bankrupt the company. When the federal government offered money to local governments willing operate public transit, Albuquerque became one of the first cities to take up the offer. 50 years later, it’s ready to move into its next big phase of public transportation, Albuquerque Rapid Transit (ART).

“It promises to enhance service along our busiest corridor, Central Avenue, as well as revitalize the area with more and exciting development,” said Bruce Rizzieri, director of ABQ Ride. “It promises be a 21st Century system for Albuquerque’s 21st Century needs.”