In response to public comment that Central Avenue buses are “only for drunks and drug addicts,” Albuquerque Rapid Transit proponents have altered the $119 million plan to include a drunks and druggies “Slow Ride” bus system to run alongside the Rapid Transit option.
The “Slow Ride” will be an enhanced version of the existing (and somewhat infamous) #66 bus, a service which was to be unchanged in former ART plans. Now, using bus modifications based on designs of Green Tortoise adventure buses, the renamed #66 will change its name to the “Slow Ride.”
“The Slow Ride will deliberately crawl along Central picking up all the folks we don’t want on the new ART buses,” Kenneth Kesey, ABQ Ride Deputy Director told Better Burque. “The idea is to create a better balance of drunks to non-drunks on the ART buses to increase new rider feelings of safety and comfort, thus achieving our projected ridership goals.”
As noted in a five-minute video played during public meetings on ART, the Project has an ambitious goal of doubling the number of riders along Central.
“Unfortunately, many in town perceive the 66 and Rapid Ride as having similar ridership,” Kesey notes, “and formally labeling and developing distinct druggy and non-druggy routes along Central will help attract the type and number of riders ART needs to thrive.”
“I think knowing that all the crack addicts have their own system might get me to finally ride the bus along Central,” observed downtown financial planner Philip Lahm. “I’ve been driving from Uptown every day for nine years now, mainly because I don’t want some drug addict sitting next to me.”
In addition to asking former members of the rock group Foghat to supply its theme, “Slow Ride” will include an unorthodox marketing campaign centered on homeless shelters, remaining public pay phones and convenience stores with strong sales of Steel Reserve Malt Liquor. “To make ART successful overall and truly double ridership, we need more drunks and druggies, too,” notes ABQ Ride’s Kesey. “Besides, collecting more and more of them on Slow Ride buses means a higher percentage of non-druggies on ART.”
Some advocates in the homeless and addiction fields are against the proposed “Slow Ride,” citing its deliberate discrimination and overt marketing at vulnerabilities. “These so-called ‘undesirables’ are people, too,” remarked homeless advocate Beverly Gotze. “The Slow Ride is really a form of moving internment camp.”
In response, ABQ Ride’s Kesey is quick to point out “Slow Ride” and ART do not shun and truly need those Gotze represents. “In no way are we considering these people ‘undesirable,’ heck, we’ve got to have them and are doing everything we can to get them on our buses. It’s just that we want them on the right bus. Our marketing campaign and tailoring the buses to better meet the needs of such people provides them with better service, too.”
Still to be determined is a fare structure and start/end times for Slow Ride during its service day. Important in such decisions is the cost and viability of special Slow Ride bus stops, enclosed spaces based on modern smoking areas as seen below:
“We’re still trying to figure out how Slow Ride patrons can embark and disembark directly into the enclosed spaces,” ABQ Ride’s Kesey notes. “We’re also trying to find inexpensive bullet-proof glass, because our budget right now will only allow for particle board enclosures.”