BB’s DCF Post – 7.19.16: Albuquerque Rapid Transit (A.R.T.) and Everything After


Last week’s post concerned the existence and measurement of bike lanes, and “AABLE,” our effort to crowdsource measurement of them (including you!) will be on-going. Hope you can help out. Email me if you have questions, gripes, insights, and especially measurements for me.

Meanwhile, let’s zoom past the rather horrific world of 2016, assume we’ll make it as a species to 2040, and take a gander at Albuquerque in a time very possibly post-Albuquerque Rapid Transit and post-automobiles as we know them.

The visual above is from the 2040 Long Range Transportation Plan put out by the Mid-Region Council of Governments (MRCOG).  I’ve zoomed into the Nob Hill, International District area to help answer a question some cyclists have had about A.R.T., namely: “Why the Hell aren’t there bike lanes through Nob Hill and Intl. District with A.R.T.?”

With all the good cycling-related projects going on and planned along the Central Corridor, griping about a lack of bike lanes on Central might seem greedy. Zuni Blvd. is in the process of dramatically changing from someplace nobody in their right mind would ride a bike, to bike lanes and even buffers between Washington and San Mateo. Meanwhile, the final plans for the Silver Avenue Bike Boulevard between Yale and Carlisle look to turn that stretch, finally, into a real bike boulevard.

So why bike lanes on Central? Two reasons why and one reason, pictured above, why not.

As to why, the biggest argument for adding bike lanes to the A.R.T. project is that, believe it or not, the planned roadway actually leaves room for them, even through Nob Hill.

Let’s take a look at the infamous, notorious and widely ridiculed one driving lane section planned for A.R.T., here between Tulane and Amherst:

The horror! Single-lane for motorists aside, however, note the width of these driving and A.R.T. lanes. 13 feet of driving lane is something Albuquerque has evolved beyond over the past few years with the passage of its Complete Streets Ordinance. Now, in 2016, road reconfiguration projects such as MLK, Jr. Blvd. and Paradise Blvd., up around Cottonwood Mall, call for 11 foot and 10.5 foot driving lanes respectively. The new Zuni Blvd. has lanes of 10.5 feet as well.

Narrowing both the two driving lanes on the section pictured above to 10.5 feet, as well as making the A.R.T. bus lanes 11 feet, as Councilor Isaac Benton evidently was able to have happen in his District’s stretch around Old Town and up Central to I-25, gives us a total width savings of 9 feet.

Hence, room for 4 foot bike lanes with six-inch striping.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this argument is that it again shows how quickly Albuquerque is evolving in its Complete Streets thinking. When A.R.T. planning began not that long ago, 13 feet of driving lane made sense. Today, it seems antiquated and looks to be encouraging speeding and other bad driver behavior. Wonder what we’ll think about all this by 2040.

But let’s get to 2040 in a second or two.

The other reason to put bike lanes on Central in this stretch is that while Zuni has dramatically improved, it only goes so far east before running into Central. Silver, obviously, doesn’t even go that far east. Moreover, again looking at the 2040 plan above, there’s Copper on the north side of Central, but it hits a big dead-end in east-west connectivity, namely Expo NM or whatever the Fairgrounds are called now.

Just as is true for all other users, Central Avenue offers a direct route parallel roads in the Corridor don’t. So let’s add bike lanes to this stretch of Central. Glad we cleared all that up. Mission Accomplished.

Not so fast.

You might have noticed that the 2040 Long Range Transportation Plan keeps Central Avenue a gray line above. That means No Bike Facility of Any Kind. Nuthin’. Surrounding Central by 2040 are plenty of streets getting new bike lanes (dashed blue lines) and even bike paths (dashed green lines). Copper, for instance, is evidently scheduled to have a paved bike trail by 2040, one that runs smack-dab into Expo NM (hmmm…if there was only a way to open up Expo NM to bike/ped traffic…hmmmm).

Central, however, is scheduled for nothing. For the next 24 years. And this planning might very well be why we’re not seeing bike lanes planned for the Nob Hill/International District section of A.R.T..

But what about the year 2040? What will an increasingly climate-changed, heavily technologically altered world mean for transportation by that date? For contrast, one reason A.R.T. is coming about is that the existing Rapid Ride buses have gotten too old and outlived their usefulness. In about 12 years.

By 2040, Mayor Berry’s new electric buses will have doubtlessly been scrapped, through age and technological obsolescence. That’s no criticism of his plan to buy them…it’s just reality. In thinking long-term, and especially when put in the context of rapid changes, such as that shown above in terms of driving lane width, planning 25 years ahead looks really, really hard.

Myself, I’m hoping to be that 79-year-old guy riding his bicycle on the bike lane up Central in Nob Hill in 2040. Yeah, I’ll be in about an inch of 100 SPF sunscreen, but at least the solar-powered motor assist will help me get up the gentle grade. I’ll be sure to ring my bell while you ride or drive by in your self-driving car or pass me in your solar-powered 80-foot bus, filled with folks going to work at the renovated Expo NM that’s been turned into an employment campus with a bike/ped path running through it.

But that’s only if there’s a bike lane on Central. In 2017.

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