Saturday, March 26, 2016

Albuquerque Approves Bus Rapid Transit Over Strong Public Opposition

Debate over Albuquerque's proposed bus rapid transit system dubbed "ART" has been going on for several years and has developed strong opposition from business owners along the Central Avenue corridor where the two dedicated center bus lanes and about 20 bus stop stations will be built as part of the public transportation system its proponents say will attract over 15,000 daily riders. The city council approved the $119 million project at a contentious council meeting this past week by a 7-2 vote after a 4-hour debate where the word "boondoggle" was uttered repeatedly by the many opponents who showed up to testify against its approval.

Albuquerque's ART is being touted as a "catalytic project" that will drive over $900 million in new development along its Central Avenue business corridor according to its supporters. Albuquerque already had in place a rapid ride bus system that it invested in several years, which will be scrapped to make way for the new federally-funded project. Albuquerque officials are relying on about $100 million in federal grants to build the new bus rapid transit system. The city will kick in just $18 million for the project and no new taxes are planned to operate the system.

Opposition from business owners has been fixed on the loss of two lanes of traffic on one of the city's most busy streets, along with the loss of the ability to make left turns at many intersections along the route. Business owners are also concerned about the loss of business they will suffer during the drawn-out and grueling construction process that will be required to complete the project. The focus on the benefits has been driven by what the so-called millennial residents expect in a livable city. The meme is that these younger residents don't want to own automobiles and want to live where they can easily commute short, quick distances to work.

The arguments seem very similar to the arguments behind the first phase of Indianapolis's Red Line, a 13-mile bus rapid transit line that will initially run from 66th Street in Broad Ripple on the north south, down College Avenue to 38th Street where it will jog over to Capital and then south all the way to Washington Street over to the new central bus station. From there it will head down Virginia Avenue and then south on Shelby Street all the way to the University of Indianapolis campus on the south side. Like Albuquerque's ART, the Red Line will feature north-south, dedicated bus lanes with 28 bus station platforms to allow boarding in the middle of the street where the dedicated bus lines will run. Left turns along the route will be the exception once the line is completed.

That's just the first phase, which IndyGO officials claim will only cost $98 million. City officials plan to tap a $75 million federal grant to cover most of the Phase 1 construction costs, with the rest coming from TIF funds and IndyGO's reserve fund. It's curious that the Red Line's costs come in below Albuquerque's ART, which has more than a quarter fewer permanent bus stations that will be built. It's also very doubtful that construction costs in general would run less in Indianapolis than they would in Albuquerque where there is an abundance of cheap immigrant labor that generally drives down wages, and the infrastructure there isn't as old and is less costly to update than Indianapolis' infrastructure. Indianapolis is also anticipating about 11,000 daily riders on the Red Line, or nearly one-third less than Albuquerque's ART.

A big difference between the two bus rapid transit systems is that Indianapolis' is driven by a desire to connect the city's rapid transit system with the suburban counties to the north and south. Indianapolis taxpayers are being asked to pay a quarter percent higher income taxes to support the operation of the Red Line, which works out to about $120 a year in higher taxes for the average household. Part of Indianapolis taxpayers' expenses will be spent reimbursing the private parking meter operator for lost revenues, which stands to lose a considerable number of metered parking spaces along the planned Red Line route during and following construction, a problem Albuquerque doesn't face. Both rapid transit lines are based on the transit-oriented development ("TOD") model as opposed to a user-driven system. Build it and they will come is the expectation of attracting more riders and development in an area where the buses run quicker and more frequently so commuters have shorter wait and commuting times, or so they claim.

Connections to Hamilton and Johnson Counties won't come until subsequent phases dependent upon voters in those counties imposing income tax increases to pay for the suburban connections running as far north as Westfield and as far south as Greenwood. Officials in those counties are taking a wait-and-see approach, allowing less affluent residents in Indianapolis to shoulder the risk of developing the system it's leaders are driving to allow low-income workers to commute daily to jobs in their communities where they shutter at the thought of investing in affordable housing that might attract "those people" to their communities. They want only higher-income earning residents making their homes in their communities.


leon dixon said...

"The meme is that these younger residents don't want to own automobiles, want to live where they can easily commute short, quick distances to work." Most of these don't have jobs, can't afford cars, still live in their parent's basements, and are not likely to ever have good employment given the financial condition of America and its prospects. If we don't have 11,000 people per day or 15,000 or some other number generated by those whose purpose in life is to spew methane gas into the atmosphere what then? Who gets to feed the White Elephant? None of these proponents have two nickels to rub together, nor do they have reputations for achievement. They have no skin in the game and gaming is all that is being done here.

Anonymous said...

Leon Dixon...stereotype much? That's not it. Indianapolis has a street grid that is crumbling. It is so bad, in fact, that intelligent people would not take a $30,000 car out on it if they had a choice. I am employed. I own a home. I pay taxes. There's nobody in my basement. That said, I am leaving Indianapolis, taking my tax base and my productive hind end to a city that has a little vision and confidence in the future. I am selling my car and choosing transit and a bicycle. The all car all the time model is dying and as is typically the case, Indianapolis will figure it out about 30 years after everyone else does. In your case, it may be closer to 40 years.

Gary, the business owner argument is lame. The same argument was had in NY, Chicago, Minneapolis, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Montreal, Toronto and every other city that has gone to multimodal. It has turned out to be 100% false in all cases. Business increases when you get people out of their cars and out on foot. The fear is understandable but unfounded. When asked AFTER the systems go in, business owners invariably support them.

One more thing about ABQ. They already have regional commuter rail connecting with Santa Fe (RailRunner) so they have some experience with transit and see that it can work. Indy remains mired in the past, unwilling to seek solutions other than more of the same. What's Einstein's definition of insanity again?

Transit, like roads, are a public good. You can choose to invest in it or not. The best cities in the world are all choosing to invest in it. That should say something to thinking people. You can argue if you want, but it's a little more than just liberal feel good nonsense. It's a way to leverage limited budgets and move more people more efficiently, if done right.

Those are the key words...if done right. My problem with BRT in IND is that it's not being done right, but the ridiculous comments from people who refuse to acknowledge the problem and the role of transit (done right) as part of the solution is getting to the point of silliness. Go to Denver, or St. Louis or Minneapolis and ride it. It works. It doesn't destroy business. It makes cities more liveable, more attractive. It leads to cleaner air, more vibrant neighborhoods and better land use. Again, if done right.

That should be the goal. Transit is not to be feared. What should be feared is a future with crumbling roads and an unwillingness to fix what you have or make it better. Indianapolis continues to marginalize itself while putting lipstick on a pig. The chickens will eventually come home to roost. Those of you who complain incessantly while offering no solutions are part of the problem...a big part.

Anonymous said...

Leon is absolutely right - we ought to abort all children - they're unlikely to ever grow up and be productive

Pete Boggs said...

It's funny how those hipster glued to comic book notions of Lego-landscapes, talk in terms of lipstick wearing pigs & roosting chickens...

Such talk is little brother syndromic BS; by insistence we "be like" other cities & big brother syndromic by insistence of centralized dicta overriding individual sovereignty; by statist / socialist / communist looting of the public treasury.

The Red Lie is just that- fraud! Crumbling infrastructure is the result of past & current misappropriation; the "answer" to which is not "more" from the productive sector to further bloat an abusive & flabby consumptive sector.

Anonymous said...

Bogg is definitely the one who sounds like an idiot. If he talks like he writes he's an imbecile. You can't judge all Indy by guys like Dixon and Boggs. There is a huge population here that depends on bus service for 100% of their transportation needs. Most of those are trips to doctors, hospitals and downtown services. Some of them depend on bus service for dependable transportation to work. These are the elderly, the disabled, teenagers, those at the bottom margins. They may or may not have occasional rides from family, but they can only depend on the bus. We just need bus service that works. We don't need fancy rail. We don't need it to service the sports venues. It ought to be cheap. Drive your car to the corner of Grant and Michigan tomorrow. Park it. Depend on bus service to get you down to Eskenazi hospital and back. Then tell me what you think we need for bus service. The Red Line only needs to go up to 38th Street and they should have a warm, dry bus stop that will hold people and let them plug in their phones and maybe use a bathroom. The Red Line going South only needs to go to University of Indianapolis. There should be security for the line and stops, maybe some panic phones. They should be well lit. Personally Idon't think we should charge people, but if they do they should make it a dollar to get downtown. These people don't have any money. This advancement in our bus service shouldn't make anybody a big profit. This should be for the people. You guys rich enough to own your own cars are going to drive anyway. This is about grandma who needs to get her blood sugar checked downtown. You guys call yourself christian conservatives, but you're really just self centered and selfish. There is little actual compassion for the poor in Indy. Guys like Boggs, they talk and talk but what they say is always ugly, and usually kind of stupid. Listen to those guys you like to call hipsters. They see things more clearly. The old ways didn't work well in Indy. The place is a dump, and only the lawyers get anything. You don't have to be educated to see there is no actual fiscal conservatism to be had. If you don't spend it providing for your more desperate, it will be stolen by your 1%. Do the right thing.

Pete Boggs said...

Anon 7:45 insists on doing the wrong thing by aiding the crony 1% in looting the public treasury; funded solely by the productive sector. The terminology of condescension is patently imbecilic; ill defined, meaningless words like rich & poor.

Reliance on public transportation doesn't justify economic fraud & desperation isn't a strategy. Charitable service is honorable; meaning Anon 7:45 can place their money where their mouth is & Uber the pepole they insist must be served; with their time & treasure. We already have compassionately subsidized bus service & free is Santa Claus who doesn't exist.

Again, it's funny to read the comments of Utopi-Anna, hipster-statists, who insist on remaining or being stuck here, in the "dump" known as Indianapolis. The anachronistic Red Lie is a scheme of statist fraud; in service to a conspicuously consumptive caste of public purse predators & parasites.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a hipster Pete. I'm 56 years old, financially secure and would just about bet I work as hard as you do, but keep feeding those stereotypes that work so well for you and the rest of the big thinker club. You expose yourself. See, Pete, here's the thing. I get around and see what works. All those cities...I've been to them. All are superior to this dump. And I'm not paranoid, even though far more money is used to subsidize idiotic (your word) projects like I-69, the NAFTA highway. But go ahead. Indy's working out really well for everyone. I see that. So much anger. So much bitterness. So little vision. So little brainpower. Nice ad hominem attack though. You, like most Hoosiers, excel there. Good luck, Pete. God Bless.

Pete Boggs said...

Anon 7:56: We're talking statist nostalgic versions & you're preoccupied with stereotypes? Been 'round the globe me-self & the cities you tout as modally "progressive" are suffering regression by broader measure; Soviet Style economics, etc.