Talk About Raucous: ABQ Weighs in on ART
BY DAN VUKELICH
ABQ Free Press readers are fairly evenly split on the City of Albuquerque’s plan to build a bus rapid transit line along ten miles of Central Avenue, our online poll shows.
Almost half – 48.6 percent of the 724 readers responding – oppose the project while 40 percent support it. About 12 percent had no opinion.
Almost 70 percent of respondents say they never ride city buses, but when asked, “Would you ride the bus rapid transit?” – 50.55 percent said yes and 49.45 percent said no.
The newspaper’s online poll ran from Feb. 24 to March 4. Responses were limited to one per IP address.
The newspaper posed several questions in two ways, with the bus rapid transit project presented as either “the City of Albuquerque’s plan” or “Mayor Richard Berry’s plan. Each version was presented to half the respondents.
Although responses were roughly the same for two of the questions, our readers appeared to be offering a referendum of sorts on the mayor in response to this pair of questions: What is your overall opinion of the city’s/the mayor’s bus rapid transit plan.”
Strong opposition to the plan was nearly nine percentage points higher – 39.29 percent vs. 30.67 percent – when it was labeled the mayor’s plan.
Readers told us the chief drawback of the plan will be traffic congestion, while 20.17 percent said the project would harm Central Avenue businesses. Eighty-eight percent of the people responding to the poll said they did not own businesses along the Central Avenue corridor.
The chief benefit of the project that readers cited from the choices we gave them were “more public transit ridership along Central,” “making the Central Avenue corridor more livable,” and “sprucing up Central.” Those three choices received roughly the same number of responses.
Only 13.81 percent of the respondents cite the cost of the $119 million project as its biggest drawback.
What Nob Hill business owners say
“Of course we’re afraid of construction, anything that disrupts the flow in your neighborhood, but it is inevitable to deal with these issues as a business owner. Doing a project that is this lengthy, like the Lead and Coal project that was only supposed to take six months and ended up lasting 18 months, hardly any of those businesses down that corridor survived that project. Every little shop over there was crushed, but it’s really not the city’s concern, their only concern is their project . . . The only people who benefit are the ones who will buy out all the empty properties once this project is over. Since there are more than 150 businesses opposed to this project, there should be more consideration for the public’s concerns. It’s clear we don’t have say in this at all and that just blows my mind.”
I’ve been against this thing for a long, long time, but this thing is happening, so I want to be for it and to help make it the best it can possibly be, also so my business can survive this project. It has put a lot of stress and strain on our business, and I was getting to the point that I would like to retire someday, and that has definitely been set back. I’m just really trying to survive, and all I can do is embrace it at this point. I don’t believe the city cares about the financial impact this will have on businesses up and down the Nob Hill district.”
Owner of Ojo Optique, Jed Hoffberg:
“I am for it, and I think it will be great. I think that it’s going to be really hard getting through it, but we must get accustomed to change and that takes time. I think that what the result of the project is going to bring is definitely worthwhile. It’s going to stimulate improvements here in general and will give a fresh perspective on the area, and might encourage people to help keep it moving in an upward and onward direction.”
All is One Tattoo Shop owner Delano Garcia moved his business in preparation of the ART project to a better location off of a street with a stoplight. “If people couldn’t turn left to my shop I would have lost out on a ton of business. It just reminds me of that Simpson’s episode with the Monorail and the sleazy, swindling salesman that tries to take the whole town’s money, only in this case, the swindling salesman is our mayor.”
An unidentified man gets in the face of City Councilor Isaac Benton at an ART meeting at Manzano Day School. (Credit: Rene Thompson)
What people who went to the ART meetings had to say
“I’m for it because Albuquerque is really in need of a timely rapid transit, and also because there’s a lack of investment on this corridor. I feel this project would bring more of that here and there would be more of a benefit. This is going to bring jobs we desperately need here in Albuquerque. This federal money is going to bring us jobs, and it kind of pisses me off that people are trying to stand in the way of that progress.”
Maria Batista attended all of the ART meetings. At one, she grabbed City Councilor Isaac Benton and threw papers: “I’ve lived here all my life and I think it’s pretty disturbing that they have not included the community in the planning. Their feasibility studies are almost non-existent besides research that was done from ‘05 to ‘07. They are not taking the public’s safety into consideration.”
“I’m against it because I ride the bus every day, and let me tell you, we do not have a reliable transit system here. I find this project to be redundant. I just don’t understand why they would put this project on the one street that already has Rapid Ride buses. Instead, why not extend the Rapid Ride buses all over town on major streets?”
Head Engineer of the ART Project, David Leard on congestion:
“Obviously when we take a lane away, traffic is going to slow down, and that’s just going to happen, so the level of service is going to increase because it will take people longer to move through. But right now, all data shows that people will be able to get through intersections quickly with set lights for better traffic flow.”
What people said in our online poll when they were asked what they would tell Mayor Berry:
“We need to build our economy first, rapid transit later. The reason why rapid transit works in other regional cities is because they already had a vibrant or semi-vibrant economy. We have nothing.”
“Get your chicken sh*t butt to the meetings!!!”
“Recognize that there is more to Albuquerque than the ‘Central Corridor.’ Instead of talking to your rich buddies, talk to the small business owners in your city. Eighty-seven percent of a local economy comes from small businesses. Instead of courting out-of-state corporations that offer low paying jobs and take advantage of our lax combined reporting laws, invest in the individuals who have staked their claim here, who like it here, who have ideas about how to make Albuquerque better. While we appreciate how easy it is to get up and down Central, there are other neighborhoods in Albuquerque.”
“If Mayor Berry really insists on a Bus Rapid Transit plan, put it on Lomas Avenue. It will still service Downtown, Nob Hill, UNM, hospitals. Lomas. Think about it. It’s a good idea if ART has to be.”
“It’s the only decent thing you’ve proposed since you’ve been in office.”
ABQ Free Press staff writer Rene Thompson contributed to this story.
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Dan Vukelich is a writer and former editor of ABQ Free Press.