The city of Albuquerque, N.M., will start service on two ABQ Ride ART lines Nov. 30, delivering a severely delayed project that could have been scrapped due to any number of factors, but that will now provide improved service to the city’s west side.
“When we took responsibility for fixing this project, we recognized it was a little bit of a lemon. We’ve worked tirelessly to get it done right,” said Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller. “In the process, we recovered $75 million for local taxpayers, rebuilt non-functional or inaccessible platforms and secured a full fleet of 20 buses that would actually work in our system. Today, we’re turning the page and encouraging folks to come ride Albuquerque Rapid Transit on Small Business Saturday.”
The city famously canceled its order of electric buses following multiple malfunctions before replacing the 20 vehicles with clean-diesel buses. The 60-foot Xcelsior heavy-duty transit buses, which debuted in June, are from New Flyer of America Inc. and the city still has an option for 10 additional vehicles on its contract with the bus manufacturer. In a previous release, New Flyer said the five-door, 132-passenger buses were specifically designed for high capacity transit, providing full accessibility and efficient entry and exit through level platform-to-bus boarding.
Mayor Keller said the city’s Transit Department received, inspected and outfitted the buses with the necessary equipment and provided driver training for the new route. Bus operators weren’t the only people to receive training, the city and the Albuquerque Police Department launched an awareness campaign to get drivers ready for the new designated ART bus lanes on Central Avenue.
The two ART routes (Route #766-ART Red Line and #777-ART Green Line) will begin service at 5:45 a.m. on the morning of November 30, replacing the two Rapid Ride routes that currently run on Central. Both routes will originate at the Central and Unser Center. The #766 will serve the Uptown Transit Center. The #777 will go down Central to Tramway. Service hours will be Monday through Friday, 5:45 a.m. — 9:30 p.m.; Saturday, 6 a.m. — 9 p.m.; and Sunday, 6:30 a.m. — 6:30 p.m.
Chief Operating Officer Lawrence Rael said, “This will be a work in progress, as we evaluate the safety and operational issues that may arise as the project evolves.”
Service on the ART route will be free through Jan. 1, 2020, giving people an opportunity to use the service to shop local and learn the route. Regular fares begin after the new year.
“ART will bring twice the amount of service to the Westside than was provided by the Rapid Rides,” noted Transit Director Danny Holcomb. “To encourage use, we will have ambassadors on the first day at all Rapid Ride stops to help direct folks to the new ART platforms and guide them through the experience.”
In anticipation of the start of service, ABQ RIDE will have complete practice runs of the ART buses on the corridor throughout the remaining time before opening day. The first buses will begin their runs after 5:00 a.m. and go until about 7:00 p.m.