Transit union concerned about ART safety | KOB 4
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Transit union concerned about ART safety

Kassi Nelson
January 11, 2018 07:38 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Earlier this week, Mayor Tim Keller laid out a laundry list of issues delaying Albuquerque Rapid Transit even further. But transit union president Casey Padilla said his drivers have their own concerns that need to be sorted out before any start date is set.

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They all have to do with safety.        

"They’re going to have to be trained to do left-hand service now instead of right-hand service," Padilla said. "There are concerns of vehicles turning now in front of them. They feel there’s going to be more accidents."

It took less than 24 hours for a crash to happen after ART buses were temporarily up and running. That doesn’t sit well with those whose full-time job is behind the wheel. Padilla said the union’s concerns were ignored when he brought them to the previous administration.

"At the end of the day the buck falls on the lower person," he said. "It falls on the drivers. There are people making decisions that ultimately they suffer at the bottom."

Padilla said there is already a shortage of bus drivers, and the city needs to hire about 30 more by the time ART is up and running.

"You need the boots on the ground, right? You need the people who are actually going to have to operate this and if you don’t have them how do you operate?" he said.

Padilla said during River of Lights, some drivers doubled up on shifts and ended up working 18 hours. But he doesn’t expect a rush of applicants.

"When you’re going there at $12, $13 you’re not going to find anyone to go in there and fill these job duties," he said.

The troubles with the ART project aren’t easy to forget. There are reminders everywhere along Central: stations, signs, and dedicated lines. Beyond Central, there are billboards promoting ART, but ABQ RIDE spokesperson Rick De Reyes said all those are set to come down.

The billboards cost the city nearly $99,875. Even though the contract that put them there isn’t expired, it’s still money spent.

What about the signs touting the 13 new security guards for ART? De Reyes said they’ve only hired eight, and are in the process of hiring three more. Now, three of those people will fill vacant ABQ RIDE positions and the others will provide additional security.

"It all works in the balance, ABQ RIDE can always use the extra hands in security," he said.

Some business owners on Central Avenue hoped the empty designated ART bus lanes could be used for normal traffic for now. De Reyes said it’s too soon to say what those lanes will be used for.

"Right now they are being used by maintenance crews, and crews that will be continuing with some of the construction aspects and getting stuff right," he said.

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Kassi Nelson

Copyright 2018 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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