University, Paseo still up for future potential ART bus rapid transit routes

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) — The Albuquerque Rapid Transit (ART) bus project on Central Avenue has seen its fair share of construction problems, traffic tie-ups, and impacts on local businesses.

But could there be another bus rapid transit project like ART on the horizon for the city?

When the idea of bus rapid transit first came up in Albuquerque, local government leaders envisioned a network of bus routes, with talk of putting ART-style projects on busy roads like Unser Boulevard, Paseo Del Norte and University Boulevard.

Despite ART’s growing pains, future ART routes are still very much on the table, according to the regional transportation planning agency Rio Metro.

“I think the (Rio Metro) board has always look at the viability of a larger network, so that’s certainly not off the table,” said Augusta Meyers, Communications Manager for Rio Metro.

Rio Metro is the agency responsible for managing the Rail Runner and other regional transportation projects, including future BRT development.

For years, Rio Metro has been talking and planning a network of high-speed bus routes, or BRT projects.

“The viability of bus rapid transit would really be seen, if we could do an east-west and north-south route,” Meyers said.

Meyers says ART’s growing pains haven’t stopped Rio Metro from considering more bus rapid transit projects that would ideally connect with the Central Avenue route.

One of the routes Rio Metro says it’s in the early stages of evaluating is along University Boulevard, in order to link UNM, CNM, the city stadiums and the Albuquerque Sunport. The idea was highlighted in a 2015 Rio Metro publication titled, “Futures 2040: Metropolitan Transportation Plan.”

“It’s in the very early stages right now, a lot would depend on how the ART (Central Ave) project does and it will also depend on federal funding,” said Meyers.

(Photo Caption: A 2015 study highlighted a possible BRT route on University Blvd.)

Meyers says it would be at least three to five years before anything may happen on University.

“We would have to even put it to the board to vote on a study of that route,” said Meyers. “Even though it’s sort of been in the network for a while, there’s a lot of pieces that would have to happen before that actually came to fruition.”

Another idea that Rio Metro has discussed is building dedicated bus lanes (BRT) to Albuquerque’s westside, on Unser and Paseo del Norte. The idea was highlighted in a 2014 study published by Rio Metro, titled, “Paseo del Norte High Capacity Transit Study: Alternative Analysis Report.”

Rio Metro says a potential Paseo del Norte-Unser BRT route is further out than a potential University route.

(Photo Caption: A 2014 Paseo del Norte study used this map to highlight a potential future BRT route on Paseo & Unser.)

KRQE News 13 asked several people Tuesday about their thoughts on future ART routes beyond Central Avenue.

“I don’t know, we’ll see how well ART works in practice,” said UNM student Jonathan.

“They should just finish what they have now just to get it running and then if it’s working well, then maybe add it on but not right now,” said Marisa Mata, a driver and bus rider.

In terms of cost, Rio Metro predicted back in 2014 that an ART route on Paseo del Norte and Unser could cost around $105 million to build out. There’s no cost estimate for the potential University Boulevard project.

Rio Metro says it would also factor in “lessons learned” from the first ART project.

(Photo Caption: Rio Metro’s 2014 Paseo study also showed a rendering of a potential reconfiguration of the river crossing to add dedicated bus lanes.)

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