Mapping data highlights how Albuquerque and Bernalillo County investments in transit and access to open spaces could help in Covid-19 recovery

Oct. 29, 2020
The region’s neighborhoods with a majority of non-white residents face a lack of public transportation options to access parks and open space, but planning the city is doing now could have lasting impacts.

The Urban to Wild coalition, convened by The Wilderness Society, is proposing steps to create a more equitable transit system and ensure better access to parks and open space in the Albuquerque, N.M., metro-area.

Next Stop: Equitable Access, a Transit to Parks mapping analysis released Oct. 28, highlights disparities across the city that are being further exacerbated by COVID-19, demonstrating both the urgency and opportunity for officials to work together to implement community informed recommendations.

“As COVID-19 uproots our lives and routines, the outdoors are used as a place of respite and a sanctuary. It is during this time that we have seen how important access to transit is not only for essential workers, but also for people to be able to access these outdoor spaces they need so much,” said Rachel Swanteson-Franz, Urban to Wild coordinator at The Wilderness Society. “Albuquerque has a long history of land protection that has created a vast network of open spaces and protected lands. Our report highlights how meaningful community engagement and additional efforts could create equitable access to these places.”  

The compilation of city, county, state and federal data created map layers that analyze the transit routes to parks in the greater Albuquerque region coupled--with 23 different layers of sociodemographic, health and environmental data. These maps and the data show where the transit system, inclusive of pedestrian, bike and bus access options, could be improved.

“This study showcases what Albuquerque residents have struggled with for years--a lack of access to efficient, effective public transportation options, which make it incredibly difficult to access greenspaces,” said Nate Begay, Public Lands Transportation fellow with the Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge. “Stronger public transportation connections to green spaces will not only provide more equitable access but will also benefit the surrounding communities, including neighborhoods like the Mountain View Community near Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge who lack transit connections.”

The data found that Albuquerque neighborhoods with a majority of non-white residents, experience a lack of public transportation options to access parks and open space, especially on weekends with only 18 percent of communities of color having good access to parks and open space. 

“Young men of color’s health and the health of their families improve when they have access to transportation options like bicycles, buses and walking safely in their neighborhoods and to access education, employment and recreation,” said Christopher Ramírez, executive director of Together for Brothers (T4B). “Transit equity is about the communities most impacted having what they need and transit sovereignty is communities most impacted making their own decisions about their transportation needs, including being at the decision-making table. This report is one way for those most impacted to be at the table and make suggestions for how we can have better transit, better communities and increased health outcomes. T4B has found there are solutions if we engage and listen to communities most impacted."

The following are recommendations outlined in the report to move transit and parks systems forward in a more equitable and inclusive way:

  • ABQ RIDE should invest in a pilot “Park Transit Line” to take community members from neighborhood hubs in park or transit poor areas to parks and open spaces that would be otherwise inaccessible by public transit. Additionally, ABQ RIDE should investigate extending and expanding service on weekends to address the large drop in service that could be a barrier to people accessing parks and open spaces. 
  • While working to restore bus service to pre-COVID-19 levels, ABQ RIDE should begin a comprehensive community informed study that will identify equity gaps in the daily bus service. 
  • CABQ and Bernalillo County should fund a local consultant that specializes in open source data to update metro-area wide maps on trails, amenities, parks and open spaces to increase accessibility and usership. 
  • Building on years of community engagement and surveys, CABQ and Bernalillo County must consistently reimagine how parks and open spaces will represent and serve communities. They must look at how green spaces are named, designed and created to ensure these spaces are safe, accessible and welcoming to all. 
  • To address issues of nature deprivation and the climate crisis, it is encouraged to increase usage of green stormwater infrastructure and low impact development in parks, open spaces, bus stops, sidewalks and throughout the built environment. Additionally, the city must invest in bike share programs and safe bike infrastructure to build a multi-modal transit model that benefits both people and the environment. 
  •  In partnership with the U2W Coalition, CABQ and Bernalillo County should begin an awareness campaign to build community knowledge of parks. Including access and how to be involved in design and advocacy for parks. This campaign must be multilingual, accessible, asset-based and a reflection of the community and their experiences.  

“We have learned many lessons over the course of the public health emergency and there are a few issues that have been made clear. Our greenspaces, parks, open space and mother nature have provided our community refuge as we navigate COVID-19,” said District 1 City Councilor Lan Sena. “Although Albuquerque has made strides towards investing in our greenspaces and transit, equitable access to such spaces and its preservation have remained a challenge. I look forward to working with community on expanding services, investing in nature and prioritizing equitable access for all our communities to enjoy the beauties of Albuquerque’s greatest jewels.” 

The Transit to Parks report is the culmination of more than a year’s worth of work from Urban to Wild partners, including community organizations and those working within the mainstream conservation movement to shape recommendations to move the transit and parks systems forward in a more equitable and inclusive way. Those groups include: Cottonwood Gulch Expeditions, Bernalillo County Community Health Council, Environmental Education of New Mexico, Friends of Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge, Kewa TRUTH Youth Council, New Mexico Dream Team, Equality New Mexico, New Mexico Voices for Children, Together for Brothers, Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge, National Park Service, City of Albuquerque Open Space Division and Bernalillo County Open Space.