Analysis of BRT/ABQ by Paul Lusk, Planner and Architect

Introduction

From our cursory review of the January 2016, revised ART Rapid Transit Project Plan drawings, it appears that many of the drawing errors and errors of fact identified in our December 2nd, 2015 comments were addressed. However, other errors, both of concept and drawings, have not. The following examples provide a sampling of issues and problems identified since
the posting of the ART revisions 22JAN2016.

Example 1

On the 10th St. — 1st St. (was previously page 3A), in the “Proposed ART Alignment and Cross Sections” drawings that are super-imposed on the aerial-photo base (January, ’16 revisions), the area on the east side of the 1st St. intersection shows 4 vehicle lanes. There are 2 westbound vehicle lanes (one thru or right turn, and one left turn), and 1 two-way dedicated Bus lane and 1 eastbound vehicle lane on the south side. The single, two-lane ART bus-lane results from the merging of the 2 dedicated westbound ART bus lanes (one coming from under and one heading down under) just west of the RR overpass. These two ART lanes merge into one just west of the underpass. This merged, two-way bus lane, apparently, allows sequential/two-way use of this single dedicated lane.

If there is an Art bus (westbound but waiting to turn right), though, in this two-way single lane, it is not clear, how a 60’-long, articulated ART bus coming from the ART station on 1st St., (on the south) and turning east on Central Ave can get into the two-way dedicated lane before reaching the underpass — if there is a ART bus waiting at the 1st street signal light. Further, it is not clear how west-bound ART busses, in this single dedicated lane, can turn right onto 1st St. (then to Copper Ave.) across the two adjacent lanes with vehicles also waiting at the 1st St. light. It may be that there is a special multi-phase, right-turn light — one for the busses and one for other vehicles wanting to turn right (or to turn left or continue west on Central). The resolution of this physical arrangement, signal-sequencing issue, is not clear.

Similarly, on the 1st St. – Oak St. (was 3B) Alignment and Cross Sections drawing, on the east side of the RR underpass, the 60’ Right-of-Way (R.O.W.), from 1st St. thru the underpass, transitions to an 80’ R.O.W. at the Broadway Blvd. intersection. The single eastbound vehicle lane from just-past the RR underpass, transitions to one thru (or left-turn) lane, and one right-turn lane adjacent to a “widened” (but un-dimensioned) sidewalk. The two dedicated ART bus lanes located in the center are, themselves, shown to cross, alternately, (thru the intersection) into one single, dedicated, two-way, ART bus lane on the east side of Broadway Blvd. This R.O.W. also includes a single vehicle lane on the north side, heading west–bound, and thru the underpass to 1st St.

The issues of merging distance, sequencing of left-turns for vehicles crossing adjacent dedicated bus lanes (or vehicle lanes), and the timing of ART busses from the two-way ART lane on the east to the double-lanes on the west, present both physical challenges and signal sequencing issues that are not easily resolved nor evident from the information presented. This lack of lane-continuity and the physical and signal sequencing issues also occur in a number of other intersections in the (revised) Project Plans.

Because these issues (perhaps errors or, at least, lack of clarity) often occur at the edge of drawing pages, they are often called “edge-of drawing = end of thinking” problems. Unfortunately, when contract drawings are being made, or when contract bids are solicited, they often can result in extended delays and escalating costs.

Section A, east of Broadway Blvd, also on the 1st St. – Oak St. drawing, is shown cutting thru the 400 & 401 Central Ave. buildings, just east of Arno St. On the south side of the EDO buildings and the Special Collections (old Main) Library, the parking space area as well as the existing widened portion of the north-side sidewalk is eliminated. Parking is shown on the south side only, adjacent to a “widened” (un-dimensioned) sidewalk. This widening, because it is an asymmetrical section, would result in the removal of the existing trees in the median in front of the Special Collections Library, to be replaced with an off-center, paved, “striped median”. Further (and mysteriously), a 5’, one-way bike lane also appears in this section — on the south side only. This bike lane appears here, in Cross Section A and, again, two blocks east, in the Cross Section for “Walter Station”, with “widened sidewalks” (dimensions not shown). Then the bikeway disappears.

Example 2

On the Oak St.–Buena Vista Dr. (was 4A) Alignment and Section aerial photo/drawing, the cross-section for Cedar Station shows mature trees in the ‘widened’ sidewalk area on the south, and in what is called, inaccurately, the ‘existing’ sidewalk on the north. This drawing, though, shows the elimination of the large Sycamores that are on the south side, with no evidence of space available within the new 110-115’ R.O.W. for plantings.
Cross-Section B (between Sycamore and Maple streets) shows a 56.5’ cartway (the space between the vertical curbs), with a single drive lane each way (east & west) and with one parking-bay area, north side only. The two 12’ dedicated lanes for ‘high-speed’, 8’-wide ART buses, divided by a 1’ vertical curb, would seem challenging at best or, perhaps, terrifying.
On the far right on this page, the University Blvd. intersection and the ART Station are shown in plan, but no cross section is shown. The issues identified in our Dec 2nd comments, have not been addressed. The substantial property-taking on the north side appears to accommodate, apparently, three west-bound lanes (through, right and left turn lanes), two dedicated bus lanes, the ART Station and, strangely, only one east-bound drive lane on the south. The substantial property taking to the north would be from ‘Tight Grove’, the iconic conifer tree-stand planted in1905 and named for the third UNM President, W.G. Tight. It also is on the Historic Designation Registry. We do not believe that would be an easy or appropriate “taking”.

Example 3

On the Buena Vista-Bryn Mawr Dr. (was 4B) Alignment and Section page, the Cornell Station cross-section shows a Right of Way of about 110’. The width is estimated because the sidewalk on the south side is ‘widened’, but no dimensions are given. Also, because the parking spaces on the south side would be eliminated, we expect that this would not be favored by adjacent businesses.
The extra 10’ dimension on the north-side looks to be a property-taking from the landscaped areas in front of the UNM Bookstore and the Architecture and Planning buildings. The cross-section also names the (new) north-side sidewalk as ‘existing’, which is not accurate.
Example 4

On the Bryn Mawr Dr. – Adam St. (was 4C) page, the cross-section (Section A) drawing shows ‘widened’ (but unspecified) sidewalks, parking on both sides, two one-way driving lanes (east & west), two dedicated 13’ ART bus lanes (without a vertical-curb divider). The problem is that this condition is not typical throughout. It appears to be applicable to the two-block area between Wellesley and Amherst Streets. The blocks impacted by Bryn Mawr and Solano Stations (the majority of the area), however, lose the parking spaces to the expanded space used by the lanes dedicated to serving the ART Stations.
Furthermore, for the entire length from Girard Blvd. to Washington St. Station, the existing mature trees in the median, apparently, are eliminated. There are small ‘landscape’ areas depicted near the ART Stations, but the actual spaces resulting are much smaller.
Also, there is an issue regarding all of the single-drive-lanes, where they occur, such as in this entire Nob Hill segment. ABQ Ride has a number of bus routes that use Central Avenue for at least a portion of their route. When these buses stop to load passengers, and/or bicycles, all vehicles waiting behind would have to wait for the bus to load, or illegally attempt to drive into the dedicated lane and around the bus.

Example 5

On the Adam St.–Valencia St. (was 4D) and the Valencia–Louisiana Blvd. (was 5A) aerial photo drawings, from San Mateo Blvd. continuing east, in the areas where the ART Stations are located, parking spaces adjacent to the sidewalks are eliminated. Also, the 8’-landscape areas, which are shown as narrow strips in the center of the median, would probably only support forbes and low plants. Most mature trees, including existing ones, would not be viable and would not be safe in such locations for speeding ART buses.

SUMMARY

In summary, the brief assessment above is but a short list of the many errors, both of concept and of plan/section detail, that are incomplete or unresolved, even in the January 22, 2016, revision. Other issues not addressed here, such as the many long, single-lane, two-way dedicated ART lanes (for example from Cornell to Girard Blvd., about 1700’) would present scheduling/communicating/waiting challenges. This only adds to the number and level of complexities in this highly convoluted effort to shoehorn the concept of a center dedicated lane system onto Central Avenue. At the least, in the most critical areas, Central Avenue is simply not wide enough to accommodate it, without substantial collateral damage to many other functions of the Avenue. Although the modest sidewalk dimension requirements in Albuquerque’s ‘Complete Streets’ Ordinance, may be addressed, other issues such as north-side property-takings, elimination of a large percentage of existing mature trees in the medians, the unbudgeted cost of underground utility replacement, and the lack of connectivity to either the existing bus routes, or a transition to a grid bus network, would indicate that the ART Project-design, even as revised on January 22, 2016, would be a very expensive and dysfunctional imposition on Central Avenue businesses, residents and foreseeable civic budgets and, potentially, result in a net reduction in area-wide bus ridership.
We believe that the alternative street designs and section-drawings provided to the Transit Dept. on December 2nd, and the detailed access information regarding Houston, Los Angeles and other cities’ transition to grid-network bus systems, including the use of electric powered, articulated and single-unit buses, would be far less costly, less socially disruptive, and a more economically and ecologically sound basis on which to build Albuquerque’s 21st Century Transit System