Steering transit progress
In 2000, Albuquerque’s transit department had earned a bad reputation with problems that included safety issues, drivers who had gone years without a union contract, declining ridership and increasingly angry complaints from riders. In July 2000, a bus caught fire, solidifying concerns about the department’s administration.
In December 2005, Mayor Martin Chavez appointed Greg Payne as the director of ABQ RIDE. Payne, who resigned as a state representative to work with the department, began by eliminating several upper management positions and hiring more drivers and mechanics. Routes were added and expanded, and the bad relationship between management and the driver’s union began healing. New customer service initiatives also were instituted, including a faster response by customer service representatives to passenger concerns.
One of the new routes, a free circulator that operates in the downtown business district, reported more than 150,000 riders in 2007. Two new limited-stop, bus rapid transit routes using diesel-electric hybrid articulated buses were added, too. The older “Red” route is expected to increase its ridership by almost 13 percent to 1.87 million boardings by July 2008, and the newer “Blue” route could reach more than 250,000 boardings its first year. Overall, transit ridership increased 44 percent, from 6.8 million in 2005 to 9.8 million boardings in 2007.
To increase safety, the department purchased an automatic vehicle locator system to track bus speed and location, and added transit security and police officers in city buses and at bus stops. New bus shelters were built and continue to be built at bus stops, partially funded by selling naming rights to local businesses. The city is sharing as much as $1.5 million in revenues from on-bus advertising with a private vendor.
Albuquerque also replaced its aging vehicles with 58 diesel-electric hybrid buses from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada-based New Flyer and 30 new paratransit vehicles. The new fleet hit the roads on March 15, 2008.
ABQ RIDE continues to develop into a state-of-the-art transit system, expanding to meet the demands of the rapidly growing community. “We aren’t perfect,” Payne says, “but there’s no question ABQ RIDE is on its way to becoming a 21st-century transit department for a 21st-century city.”
ABQ RIDE (Albuquerque Transit Department)
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada-based New Flyer