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Albuquerque opens first US Gold Standard BRT

Albuquerque Rapid Transit is the first BRT system in the US to use electric buses with doors on both sides

The City of Albuquerque, New Mexico has launched the first Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) corridor in the United States, achieving a gold standard designation from the ITDP for design, with a separate score on operations to be determined after six months.

Albuquerque Rapid Transit (ART) is also the first BRT system in the US to use electric buses with doors on both sides. It runs along Central Avenue, the city’s main street, and a decommissioned section of the famed Route 66 highway. Central Avenue connects several historic and walkable neighbourhoods.

“I have met people, young and old, and families, who are happy to be living close to the corridor so they could more feasibility commute without owning a car,” Michael Kodransky, Director, Global and US Initiatives, ITDP, told Cities Today. “The reality is that in most of the US, it’s really not a viable option to live without a car. But this project shows that it’s possible to make a shift. Central Avenue is the old decommissioned Route 66 and now is the urban core of Albuquerque with a new transit system.”

Albuquerque Rapid Transit is owned and operated by the city’s transit department, ABQ RIDE. It is the first form of transit in the city of 560,000 to use a dedicated guide way. The project has a projected cost of US$133.6 million, with US$75 million from the Federal Transit Administration. The corridor has brought new construction jobs to Albuquerque and already generated over US$300 million worth of investments along the corridor.

Albuquerque took an urban development approach, including ART as part of a strategy to guide development growth as well as mitigate traffic congestion. Revised land-use codes along the corridor eliminate parking requirements and allow for greater mixed-use development density. Alburquerque also upgraded 26 kilometres of sidewalks, adding new landscaping and pedestrian lighting, as well as 39 intersection signals to give priority to BRT vehicles.

“The incentive is certainly there for US cities to build real, quality, high capacity transit,” added Kodransky. “This is something that is particularly missing from US cities like Albuquerque, which are mid-sized, low-density, and car-oriented. They, like cities around the world, are waking up to the fact that there are limits to road networks, and providing transit options for their residents is in everyone’s best interest. We particularly hope that ART will prove that cities like Albuquerque can create high quality, efficient transit, at a fraction of the cost and time of a rail system.”

The ITDP uses its Bus Rapid Transit Standard to evaluate BRT corridors worldwide. This is based on different, commonly-shared criteria that recognises BRT systems with either bronze, silver or gold rankings.