ABQ Ride reflects on 2023, shares plans for next year
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — ABQ Ride and City of Albuquerque public safety leaders came together Thursday to reflect on 2023 and share their plans for 2024.
While ridership was up on ABQ Ride buses this year – so was the number of calls for service. But officials say that number may be up because they are monitoring the buses more.
All cameras on the buses and at bus stops are fed back to APD’s Real Time Crime Center, and this year the Albuquerque City Council approved funding to designate a 24/7 monitoring and dispatch center specifically for ABQ Ride. They also granted metro security guards more authority, allowing them to write up citations for criminal trespassing and loitering.
“We don’t have arrest authority still, but we do have the ability to issue the citation,” said Scott Blackledge, CABQ Metro Security Division chief. “And that certainly will help us leverage the voluntary compliance of getting people to adhere to the rules and regulations, which is really what we’re looking for in the end.”
They are also improving safety for bus drivers by adding barriers around the driver’s seat on all city buses and changing their policy so the drivers no longer have to get involved when it comes to removing someone from the bus.
When it comes to staffing, right now there is a 34% vacancy rate at ABQ Ride – which includes drivers and maintenance workers. That is about where they were last year at this time.
The department held two rapid-hire events this past year where they were able to make more than 70 job offers, however, many of those candidates are still going through the hiring process.
“We’re expecting to be fully staffed early in the new year,” said Leslie Keener, ABQ Ride director. “We do have several applicants that are currently going through the hiring process, enough to fill out those vacancies that we currently do have. And then we just have several additional hires that are going through the pre-employment process. We’re continuing to screen and interview applicants outside of the hiring events as well.”
Officials are confident next year they won’t have to cut as many routes due to staffing. This year, they had to reduce their routes twice.
They will also need the new staff to keep up with increased ridership. Keener says their fixed routes are almost at pre-pandemic levels, with an average of 23,000 riders a day and a total of 6.6 million riders in all of 2023.