Suddenly Ending A.R.T. Bus Lanes: Central at I-25

Yesterday, BB shared a photo of some lovely chalk art on the still bus-free A.R.T. lanes, a photo so nice we’re posting it twice.

Photo: John Fleck (official BB Staff Photographer)

The photo was taken from the A.R.T. station at Gold and Sixth, across from Boese Brothers Brewing. Btw, the great artwork here is just another visual reason to sit in the Boese beer garden, as you’re surrounded by murals (some great, some not quite so great), modernist architecture, and frequent passage by pre-A.R.T. Rapid Ride buses.

Not to mention the A.R.T. station, wonderful bus lane art now included. Perhaps our best single best downtown viewing spot.

boese view
Boese Brothers Brewing view, December 2018. Why this stop is called “Downtown” as if there were no other Downtown stops is yet another A.R.T. mystery. 

Moving a bit east along the A.R.T. route, here’s a Memorial Day recreation/travel suggestion that you’ve perhaps already experienced. Have you ever biked on the A.R.T. bus lanes (because who hasn’t already been doing that for months/years now?) and gotten to Central Avenue and I-25?

art central I-25
Google screengrab instead of BB photo, because BB is always too involved in staying alive to take a photo at this intersection.

If you haven’t, and if the screengrab above doesn’t bring it to life, you’re either swooping down westbound or huffing/puffing a bit up eastbound, just chilling in the bus-free A.R.T. when, all of the sudden, you get to I-25 and they just…end. They just disappear at the two frontage roads of Locust and Oak, replaced by turn lanes and a dark, forbidding underpass that makes pedestrians do things like this:

pedestrian central i-25
In addition to pedestrian about to face crossing the still-more hostile environment of Locust at Central, note lack of A.R.T. lane, here going westbound.

The A.R.T. lane cyclist then has to reacquaint themselves with surrounding traffic and try to stay vertical/alive to the eventual resurrection of the A.R.T. lanes. When A.R.T. buses finally use the lanes later this century year, the greater discomfort of reacquaintance will be felt by drivers who suddenly have a bus driver on a very tight “bus rapid transit” schedule swerving into what they thought was there turn lane.

The fun thing about the disappearing A.R.T. lanes at Central/I-25 is that its currently a little secret shared pretty much only by cyclists who are dumb adventurous enough to use the A.R.T. lanes. Of course, the secret is also shared by designers of the A.R.T. route, but, for some reason, those folks haven’t made the glitch widely known.

This will change when the buses start running, and, putting on our Johnny Carson “Carnac the Magnificent” turban, we foresee one, if not more, mainstream media stories about the glitch somewhere around, um, roughly Day Two of A.R.T.’s actual existence.

Why the disappearing A.R.T. lane(s)?

Well, as my riding buddy John would say, just as he has here previously on BB:

In a classic 1961 paper, the political scientist Vincent Ostrom and his colleagues laid out a framework for thinking about the problems of what he dubbed “polycentric” governance:

“Polycentric” connotes many centers of decision-making which are formally independent of each other…. To the extent that they take each other into account in competitive relationships, enter into various contractual and cooperative undertakings or have recourse to central mechanisms to resolve conflicts, the various political jurisdictions in a metropolitan area may function in a coherent manner with consistent and predictable patterns of interacting behavior. To the extent that this is so, they may be said to function as a “system.”

And as John earlier pointed out in reference to BB’s general study of places where city/county roads (e.g., Central) cross state roads (e.g., I-25) we have this:

The “system” in the Better Burque Freeway Crossing Case Study is the seamless web of roads – some city, some county, some state Department of Transportation – and the the complicated handoffs required as jurisdiction, budget, planning, construction, and maintenance responsibility pass from one to another.

In the location of the photo of Scot looking forlornly into the Osuna-San Mateo underpass beneath I-25, the “system” has sidewalks and a bicycle lanes behind, on the city street leading into this intersection. But as the city street approaches the Land of the New Mexico Department of Transportation, which has jurisdiction over the freeway in the background and the hellscape beneath, the bike lanes and pedestrian access dwindle away to near nothing.

Just replace “Osuna-San Mateo” above with “Central-Interstate 25” and add “Albuquerque Rapid Transit” and you have an explanation for the now-secret polycentric hot mess to come. The lack of State buy-in on the A.R.T. project can even be seen on the still-existent A.R.T. project drawings from the primarily moribund A.R.T. website.

art central west
Just as many wish would happen at the national level, note the orange just disappears
art central east
East of I-25 the gap stops and the “two-dedicated ART lanes” reappear, strangely seeming to totally block the westbound lanes of Central.

Back at the pinnacle of the A.R.T. brouhaha, nobody paid much attention to the glitch outlined above. There was so much else being bitched and moaned about that the disappearing bus lanes at I-25 stayed argumentatively between the cracks, out of bitch/moan sight and media gaze.

So if you have a few minutes this holiday morning, go ride (be safe!) the A.R.T. lanes to Central and I-25, and personally look directly into what should be a very interesting transportation story whenever those damn long-awaited buses finally start rolling.

Fun times ahead. Fun times.

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