Albuquerque Rapid Transit: Are Facts Stupid Things?

As Albuquerque Rapid Transit wobbles its way toward a construction phase scheduled to begin in just over a month, the project’s acrimony phase plods on.

Led by Flying Star restaurants’ Jean Bernstein, the opposition group “Make ART Smart” has released a commissioned report by UNM traffic engineering assistant professor Gregory Rowangould. The report is highly critical of the paucity of research done by ABQ Ride and CABQ in submitting the funded federal “Small Starts” grant backing the project, also pointing out that what research has been done indicates the project will possibly result in increased traffic congestion along Central. Or as the KRQE headline on the report puts it: “ART Lawsuit: City Traffic Data Shows Bus Plan Will Clog Central.”

Of course, in a perfect world, everyone would patiently read Professor Rowangould’s report and make their own reasoned reaction to it based on its facts and analysis. To mention this will not happen is trite and unnecessary, but might serve as something of an incentive for BB readers to dive in, or at least dip a toe beyond the KRQE headline.

Integral to the the hearts and minds campaign by Make ART Smart is the widely, but not universally, shared idea that traffic congestion is a bad thing. A certain number of contrarians argue otherwise. An exemplar of such contrarian thinking can be patiently read and reasonably reacted to at the Austin-based urbanist John Karras’ site urbanScale. For a number of citizens darn close to 100%, however, the idea that traffic congestion is good is akin to positing that we should start pumping anthrax cultures through all air conditioning vents.

Which is why congestion works so well in a hearts and minds campaign. Still, Professor Rowangould’s report includes a passing mention that brings up another big question in the congestion debate: Is Central Avenue currently congested enough?

However, in my opinion, an improved study would likely reveal that ART would provide little, if any, improvement over the current Rapid Ride because Central Avenue has very little traffic congestion.

There is much to digest, patiently and reasonably, in such a passing comment. We’ll delve a bit more into it tomorrow at BB’s weekly post at Duke City Fix, digressing into things like “farebox recovery” and such as we look at the “reason for the ART season,” so to speak, transit.

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