Albuquerque Isn’t Phoenix … or Cleveland


The Duke City’s transportation bureaucrats, Albuquerque Business First reported earlier today, “held presentations this week called ‘Transit Placemaking for the Central Avenue Corridor.'” Planners from Phoenix and Cleveland were on hand to tout the “benefits” of government-run buses and trains.

The events were attempts to promote Albuquerque Rapid Transit (ART), a bus rapid transit system designed to replace “Rapid Ride,” which runs three express routes along Central Avenue.

The Foundation recently weighed in on the weaknesses of the ART proposal — issues that surely went unaddressed at “Transit Placemaking for the Central Avenue Corridor.” Read the issue brief here.

Phoenix, it’s important to note, has been a boomtown for decades — long before the recent expansions of its transit systems. While both Arizona and New Mexico had about the same population a century ago, the states’ public policies diverged radically. One adopted a right-to-work law and kept taxes relatively low. The other focused on the federal government as a driver of jobs and development, enacted a cumbersome tax on gross receipts, and refused to ban compulsory unionism. The opposing approaches yielded very different results for the states’ two dominant metro regions.

As for Cleveland, it does have one thing in common with Albuquerque: vanishing locals. Between 2013 and 2014, Bloomberg found, the metro areas lost the same percentage of residents. Unlike Albuquerque, Cleveland, as a city, has experienced net population loss since the 1950s. Another key difference? Cleveland’s population density — an important determinant of transit viability — is 42 percent higher than Albuquerque’s.

Are Duke City developers clamoring for bus rapid transit? Douglas H. Peterson, principal of Peterson Properties LLC, recently wrote in Albuquerque Business First that “35 property owners representing 55 properties … have signed official letters of opposition [to ART] that I have delivered to the mayor and councilors, [and] dozens of other citizens have contacted me to express their agreement that ART would do much more harm than good for our city and be a tremendous waste of resources.”

Finally, there is no evidence to support the claim that transit attracts educated Millennials. Last year, a report by City Observatory found that 25-to-34-year-olds with at least a B.A. were flocking to places like Houston, Las Vegas, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Jacksonville, and Denver — hardly havens for subways, light rail, and bus rapid transit.

Albuquerque needs a vibrant and growing private-sector economy. Feel-good “infrastructure” projects have proven to be spectacularly ineffective tools to achieve the goal. No self-congratulatory, dissenters-not-allowed sessions celebrating “smart growth” will change fundamental facts. The city’s policymakers must look elsewhere for effective economic-development strategies.