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After 13 months, ART opens its doors to riders

Emily Jaceks
November 25, 2017 09:12 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – It’s been a long time coming. Now, after over a year of traffic headaches, woes for businesses and seeing it come together piece-by-piece, the Albuquerque Rapid Transit project is now complete.

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Though construction started in October of 2016, talks about a rapid transit project first started eight years ago. On Saturday dozens of riders packed into the Routt 66 Diner-themed-buses for the first ride.

“It was very smooth, very quiet. No traffic in the way, so it went by very fast,” said Chuck Parlapiano.

The buses are all electric, and the first fleet of its kind in the country. Over the weekend it also because the first system in the U.S. to achieve the gold standard from the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, a non-profit focused on developing rapid transit lines.

“The Orange Line in Los Angeles is bronze, the HealthLine in Cleveland is silver, the Busway in Pittsburgh is silver, and from a design perspective (ART) is gold,” said Michael Kodransky, director of global and U.S. initiatives for ITDP.   

ITDP officials evaluated the ART line on 30 different standards like bus emissions, pedestrian access and the distance between stations.

“Others are going to come to Albuquerque to see how to do bus rapid transit correctly,” said Alan Wulkan, a founding member of the Center for Transportation Excellence. “I think that’s a wonderful testament to the city.”

FANCY FEATURES

They may look like a tribute to the past, but the new ART buses are anything but old-fashioned.

“It doesn't take but a minute to realize this looks like the Route 66 diner,” said PJ Tatum, an ART bus driver.

The buses are high-tech, moving to a mostly prepaid system that counts riders as soon as they step on the bus.

And if you forgot to charge your phone or send an important email, you’re in luck when you step through ART’s doors.

“There was wifi on the bus, there was places to charge their phone,” said Mayor Richard Berry.

Riders will also be kept safe and sound. Security was a big priority for ART, with 16 cameras on each bus. Additional security officers will be visible in the back of all buses.

“These seats are probably better than what you’d find in a race car,” Tatum said.

Many drivers and passengers say they've never experienced a more comfortable ride, and while the new buses may be so peaceful they might rock you to sleep, passengers aren't forgetting to enjoy the ride down a historic stretch of road. 

“The windows were never this large on any of the other buses," Tatum said. "So now, as you’re driving down the road, you can really see the city."

While only a few buses are running now, ferrying people to the River of Lights at the Albuquerque BioPark, Berry said all 15 buses should be operational on the roads by the end of November.

Credits

Emily Jaceks

Copyright 2017 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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