AN OPEN LETTER TO THE MAYOR OF ALBUQUERQUE, THE CITY COUNCIL & THE CITIZENS OF ALBUQUERQUE
January 30, 2016
RE: Albuquerque Rapid Transit (ART)
We are a small group of volunteer “Concerned Citizens” that includes professional urban designers, planners, small business owners and architects who support the idea of improved Transit on Central Ave. However, we have come to believe that the Albuquerque Rapid Transit (ART), as developed by the Albuquerque Transit Department and its consultants, and subsequently submitted to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) –both as reviewed on 12/2/15 with the Transit Department, and in the revision publically notified by KRQE on 1/22/16 –falls substantially short of achieving the stated goals and intent stated in Federal Grant application.
Our concerns have been confirmed by the Albuquerque Transit Department’s own contracted consultant’s analysis in March, 2015 which states:
“Overall, our analysis concludes that in the Build Condition (of A.R.T.), the operational performance at several intersections would be deteriorated [compared with No Build]. Several segments would have diminished operational performance, thereby increasing queuing and congestion along the Central Avenue corridor. This can clearly be attributed to the reduction in capacity of the general purpose lanes along the majority of the corridor.”
–Albuquerque Rapid Transit VISSIM Analysis
Technical Supplement#2; pg. 110
Prepared for: ABQRIDE
Prepared by: Parsons Brinckerhoff
March 02, 2015
Hence, some important basic questions must be asked regarding the overall feasibility of ART and its potential impact on our community. For example, will ART really contribute to the overall improvement in the quality of life in our community and if so how? What are the potential costs vs the benefits of this ambitious undertaking? What are the prospects that this Project might actually diminish Albuquerque’s prospects for moving toward greater economic prosperity?
It is our view that, whether the grant application is approved or not by the FTA, the configuration and components of ART are not sufficient, in both concept and in technical support material, to meet the long-term interests of the adjacent properties, including cultural centers, neighborhoods and businesses, as well as the best interests of the citizens of Albuquerque. We believe that the January 22nd revisions still do not meet these objectives, and should be modified in order to result in an arrangement that would:
1. Cost less,
2. Connect properly to the grid network of N/S arterials, following the example of
what Houston is currently doing1,
3. Avoid tearing up much of Central Ave. for indeterminate periods of time, and
4. Significantly contribute to the overall elevation of each of the basic “capitals” of
our community which include financial, environmental, cultural, infrastructural
A number of community leaders, elected officials and citizens voiced their support for this Project early on based on the CONCEPT of a rapid bus transit system prior to release of both the original ART Plan submitted to the FTA and the January 22, 2016 modifications. It is vital that everyone who expresses their support or their opposition to ART, do so on a fully informed basis with objectively vetted analyses that represent the best interests of Albuquerque citizens, neighborhoods and affected businesses.
A detailed review of the ART Project Plans by technically qualified members of our
Concerned Citizens group, as presented on the ABQRide website in early December, and again as revised in January, 2016, has revealed that the proposed ART design:
Compromises many necessary functions of the Central Avenue Right of Way in
order to create and “fit in” the Dedicated Center Lane and Island Station concept.
Central Avenue simply is not wide enough to successfully accommodate the
dedicated center lane concept of ART, as initially designed, and as revised in
January, 2016, remedies many of the sidewalk width reductions of the initial ART Plan.
However, the1/22/16 revisions still fail to comply with the performance
criteria, as well as the provision for the multiple functions called for in the
“Complete Streets”criteria. ART therefore, would be illegal and unbuildable,
according to the “Complete Streets Ordinance” as adopted on 1/21/15 by the
Albuquerque City Council (Council Bill No. F/s 0-14-27),
s pedestrian street crossings and bus transfers,
s congestion by inhibiting left-turns,
o businesses along Central Avenue,
s side street(s) vehicle volume and congestion,
to ignore the potential to realign the multiple, existing bus routes (many
of which also use Central Ave.) into a “grid network” that would greatly increase
connections, serve more people, and enhance ridership without increasing fleet
A more detailed “ANALYSIS OF A.R.T. PROJECT PLAN as REVISED 1/22/16” is attached.
RECOMMENDATIONS MADE TO THE ALBUQUERQUE TRANSIT DEPARTMENT
On December 2, 2015, our group met with, and submitted to the City of Albuquerque
Transit Department, detailed comments and recommendations regarding the ART
Project Plan drawings as posted on the ABQRide website. During that meeting the above issues were discussed. In addition, detailed written materials and references were given to the Transit Department Director and Staff to encourage and facilitate the capacity of the ART Project to include:
Connectivity to the Greater Albuquerque area through a (modified) grid network
Reconfiguration of the elements of the Transit system to directly access an expanded sidewalk area and adjacent properties, rather than the use of center, dedicated lanes and island Transit stations
Use of electric-powered busses — articulated units on Central Ave. and on future E/W ‘spine’ arterials, and, sequentially, single-unit electric busses on the N/S routes
It was also noted and discussed during the Dec. 2nd meeting that continuous dedicated median lanes called for in the ART Plan would create dangerous and difficult pedestrian street access and crossings. In addition, the limited number of cross-street intersections would reduce the convenience of access to businesses, thereby encouraging motorists to avoid the business districts along Central Ave.
At the conclusion of the December 2nd meeting we respectfully asked the Transit
Department representatives to:
1. Review our analyses & recommendations re the existing ART Project Plans,
2. Consider the suggested alternative draft drawings, plans and sections we gave
3. Respond to our input at their earliest convenience.
We have followed up on our request several times but as of the date of this letter, we have received no direct response. We learned of the recently posted revisions through a news-item on KRQE on Friday, January 22nd. The January revisions addressed many of the technical errors of fact, as well as issues regarding sidewalk widths that our group pointed out on December 2nd. But some of the most critical flaws to the Plan remain, as described in this letter and the examples attached in the “Analysis of the ART Project Plan”.
ART would be a massive project that would cost tens of millions of Albuquerque taxpayer dollars, substantially above and beyond the Federal grant funds provided. As presently planned, including the January revisions, ART would also causes substantial disruption to small, local businesses, many of whose survivability is already severely challenged as a result of the extended recession.
THE NEED FOR GREATER TRANSPARENCY & COST/BENEFITS ANALYSES
We also are concerned about the apparent lack of transparency and publicly available Plans, economic impacts and cost/benefits analyses that demonstrate the feasibility of this Project. Where is the objective analysis that carefully examines the project’s potential
problems and issues? Do these analyses exist? If not, shouldn’t they be a prerequisite for such an undertaking? As currently designed, the ART Project has the potential to spend enormous amounts of money to do more harm than the good proposed in the Project Plans.
Albuquerque has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to develop a potential major community asset via a well-designed transit system. It could significantly contribute to Albuquerque as a culturally vibrant, ecologically resilient, innovative and economically vital community where our children and grandchildren will want to live. If it is truly needed, it will indeed simultaneously elevate all of the 5 “capitals” that are essential for a community to thrive, described earlier and presented at the December 2nd Transit Department meeting.
The City has already launched a potentially productive innovation and collaboration between the University of New Mexico and the City via “Innovate ABQ”. What if, in collaboration with Innovate ABQ, the City chose to significantly innovate in the
design of its transit system? For example:
What if Albuquerque developed a transit system that became a primary attraction for citizens and tourists alike due to its innovation and attractiveness, in addition to being highly functional, safe, economically feasible, and just plain fun to ride?
What if Albuquerque developed a high-efficiency, photovoltaic-generated, electric-powered Rapid Transit with articulated buses on Central Ave. that connect to a N/S grid network of single-unit electric busses? 1
Might a truly innovative approach to our transit system along these lines significantly contribute to, and perhaps even become a trademark of Albuquerque as an innovative city?
Could an exiting and interesting transit system such as this help overcome the cultural reluctance of many Albuquerque citizens to ride the bus?
How many millions of dollars could a truly creative inter-connected transit system, as described above, save as a result of avoiding major utility relocations needed for a dividing-median in the center of Central Avenue, as proposed to the FTA?
A primary feature of the innovative transit system described above is that the buses run in the outside lanes, adjacent to and serving an enhanced sidewalk, with bus bays and pay-to-enter shelters, discharging directly onto the sidewalk, thereby INCREASING accessibility to businesses, rather than busses travelling in dedicated center lanes with “island stations”, often NOT connecting to the revised N/S arterial bus routes.
This approach would allow buses to move nearly as quickly as with the dedicated-lane system with buses having electronic red-light control for pulling out from the bus bays, as well as green-light control over approaching intersections.
One other factor is important to note. It is possible to design a high-efficiency Bus Rapid Transit system in a “Great Street” such as Central Avenue without all the unintended negative consequences of the proposed ART design. The technical support document developed by the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) and sponsored by the Office of Infrastructure, Federal Highway Administration, as referenced in the “Complete Streets Ordinance”, provides detailed guidelines and multiple examples of how this can be accomplished.2
There are numerous variations on the above designs that could also be considered. The alternatives presented in this letter and references to successful examples in cities throughout the world were all shared with Albuquerque Transit Department representatives on December 2nd.
We believe it is timely for Albuquerque to think and act like the truly innovative city that it could be. One of the most creative steps our City could take right now, and at far less cost than the proposed, fixed-in-place, center-dedicated-lane ART design, would be to create a highly innovative, inter-connected-network, electric-powered Rapid Transit bus system that would be a cornerstone of Albuquerque’s identity, thereby helping to attract the kind of innovative people our City needs in order to thrive in the 21st Century.
YOUR OPINION IS IMPORTANT
By means of this letter, we are asking you to consider the consequences of pursuing the current ART design, and to compare it to the alternatives presented here. We ask that you support the “Concerned Citizens” group’s requests that the Mayor and the City Council collaborate to:
1. Address the concerns expressed in this letter,
2. Meaningfully engage the community about Albuquerque’s future transit system, &
3. Redesign ART to meet contemporary urban planning standards, including
Albuquerque’s “Complete Streets Ordinance”.
The Federal Transit Administration will announce its selected list of successful grant applicants on February 9th. Whether Albuquerque is selected this year or not, we believe it is important for you to voice your support of a more efficient and less costly 21st Century Transit system by contacting the Mayor and the Albuquerque City Council as soon as possible, prior to February 9th.
Thank you for your consideration of what we believe would be a major improvement to the current proposed Albuquerque Rapid Transit Plan.
Anthony Anella, Registered Architect & Central Ave. Commercial Property Owner
Jean Bernstein, CEO, Flying Star Cafes & Satellite Coffee
Paul Lusk, Emeritus Professor of Architecture and Planning
Steve Schroeder, Owner, Nob Hill Music; Founder, SAVERT66
Julie Stephens, Community Planning Consultant
David Vogel, Planning & Economic Development Consultant
1“Houston: Transit, Reimagined” – An example of a city developing its transit system “grid”:
2“Complete Streets Ordinance”:
3“12 Ulta-Fast Charging Electric Buses For Geneva in 2017”: In-place single-unit, long-range-battery busses (perhaps most appropriate for nearly-level-elevation N/S routes) and over-head, quick-charge, articulated busses (more suitable for the elevation-changing E/W routes), presently operating in Europe, China and the USA.
< http://insideevs.com/12-ultra-fast-charging-electric-buses-geneva-2017/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+InsideEvs+%28Inside+EVs%29 >
“Meet the Electric Bus That Could Push Every Other Polluting Bus Off the Road”
– – – –
Developed by the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE), this provides detailed guidelines and multiple examples. Access to this source is in the URL below:
< http://library.ite.org/pub/e1cff43c-2354-d714-51d9-d82b39d4dbad >
– – – –
An example of ‘systems thinking’ is evident in the transit system as shown in: http://www.ci.omaha.ne.us/planning/urbanplanning/images/stories/Master%20Plan%20Elements/Transportation_Element_Final_2012_web.pdf
– – – –
The Gallup City Council, on Dec. 7th, reviewed contracts for a 10MW PV Solar array serving municipal electric load needs. http://www.gallupnm.gov/DocumentCenter/View/1023
For example, through initiative and creativity a New Mexico Woman Invents Solar Powered Bus:
< http://krqe.com/2016/01/28/new-mexico-woman-invents-states-first-solar-powered-bus/?utm_source=The+Santa+Fe+Reporter+List&utm_campaign=2ffa5eda35-Morning_Word+Jan+29%2C+2016&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_b77a98714b-2ffa5eda35-60515141&mc_cid=2ffa5eda35&mc_eid=1aa1c49001 >
Chicago’s CTA loves their battery-electric buses so much, they are buying 30 more. http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1102130_chicago-transit-authority-to-add-dozens-of-electric-buses-after-successful-tests
ATTACHMENT: ANALYSIS OF A.R.T. PROJECT PLAN as REVISED 1/22/16 (Visit Link)