Balloon Fiesta goers encounter problems with park and ride

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – There is no doubt Balloon Fiesta traffic and parking can be a pain, with thousands of people packing the field over the nine-day event.

That is why a park and ride system was created, but Saturday morning, those who thought they would beat the congestion were instead stuck in a mall parking lot far from the balloons.

It seems like a great idea to pay in advance for tickets, catch a bus and watch the balloons without having to battle traffic yourself. But when mass ascension happened at the park Saturday morning, a lot of those people who bought tickets did not even make it to the field.

Up before the sun, “we got here about 5:30 or so,” a balloon spectator said who was waiting at Coronado Mall at Park and Ride for the Balloon Fiesta like many others.

“We got here real early this morning and we were just waiting to get on the buses,” Caleb Konoff said.

People came from near and far. “We got people here from Ohio, Pennsylvania, across the world and so we all just want to go see some balloons,” Konoff said.

On the first day of Balloon Fiesta 2017, many people who planned to get to the spectacular event by utilizing the Park and Ride at Coronado Mall did not get what they paid for. Like Emilio Vialpando who came from Dallas.

“I just don’t always get the opportunity to come back so every chance I get, which hasn’t been very often, I do try and take,” Vialpando said.

But instead of sharing his childhood memories of living in Albuquerque with his girlfriend, they waited and waited.

“It took two and a half hours from the time we got here to Coronado to the time we got to Balloon Fiesta Park,” Vialpando said.

A lot of people waited a long time just to board the buses.

“Lines are pretty long. Probably been in line about a couple hours,” Balloon Fiesta visitor, Ron said.

Several took their frustration to social media. One woman tweeted she woke up at 4 a.m. to take park and ride but still wasn’t at the park by the time balloons launched.

A few even said they couldn’t wait anymore and left. Others posted they were stuck on a bus just trying to get in.

Balloon Fiesta took to social media, too, saying its aware of the issues.

Spokesman Tom Garrity told KRQE part of the problem was anxious drivers. “Unknowingly or in some cases even knowingly, when people drove by barriers they actually ended up getting in our bus lanes and as a result, they clogged up a lot of our routes,” Garrity said.

Garrity said those who missed out Saturday have been offered park and ride vouchers for another day.

“It’s unfortunate it was such a fiasco to get there this morning, but hopefully tomorrow will be better,” Vialpando said.

Balloon Fiesta said it will be working more closely with law enforcement to make sure cars stay out the dedicated bus lanes going forward.

Balloon Fiesta also said the issues with park and ride today were due to the high volume of people using it.