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.

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5 Replies to “Albuquerque Isn’t Phoenix … or Cleveland”

  1. If the city is so concerned about providing better public transportation up and down Central, why not follow the model used in many parts of Latin America? That is, the city gives permission to a private company for a certain amount of time to use privately owned vehicles to provide public transportation just on Central.The city would make certain that the company has adequate insurance and that the vehicles pass a safety check. That’s all. The cost to the taxpayer is ZERO.

    The most popular type of vehicle for such service in Latin America is a 15 passenger van. Not particularly comfortable – but it gets the job done for a reasonable ticket price. Why not give it a try before spending hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars on the public proposal.

    1. Great idea. It would be good to get the private sector involved. I think Lyft and Uber are a start and will make transit obsolete if they are truly given the chance to compete.

  2. The “build it and they will come” approach has not worked for the Rail Runner or Spaceport. I find it hard to believe that rapid transit on Central will cause millennials to suddenly materialize to work… where?

    Downtown development is taking place on its own, slowly but surely. The best way to accelerate this is to remove barriers to job creation and business start-ups.

    At least the new rapid transit system will get the homeless off the sidewalks.

    1. About 10% of millenials want to live near downtowns, about the only place buses run. By far the greatest number want a suburban residence of some type, for many reasons. Some will consider the density of a smart-growth community (20+ units per acre), and some a new urbanist neighborhood; both these tend toward infill-close in areas to have good success rates. About 10% also want to live in rural/remote areas; tough to do unless telecommuting or living the rural life with, perhaps, less money. But peace and happiness and satisfaction.

  3. Such folly!
    The more the transit the slower the trip. Rail takes twice the time of driving; that’s the Seattle experience. “Course, in that part of the country people walk around in a fog.

    Fully 40% of all transit ridership in the US is in New York City (That place where they make the salsa)
    Bicycle commuting increased 15% from 2006 to 2015; it now provides 0.6% of commuter transport (Of over 100,000,000). Blended with walking, and taxis (which is the choice of those with means), they’re approaching 3%.

    Over 75% of commuting is done by one-person auto, an indication that most people use their cars for something other than driving to work 9 to 5 – like doing errands, taking care of elderly in their homes, shopping, meeting friends, none of which can be done at all conveniently on public transport or shank’s mare (Patomobile in the southwest)

    I rather like (small) buses around neighborhoods, mixed with true express transport. Would it not be amazing to see a city select its bus types based on ridership? Some actually do this; most just take federal largesse and put those tanks on the street. Wow! Articulated empty buses, too! Wannabe trains.

    Car rental agencies run smaller buses (on which, Gasp!, people occasionally stand); but they have disabled person access available, also.

    Uber and clones will render the discussion moot; you’ll replace the few bus riders with cardboard cutouts. Maybe Hopalong Cassidy and Roy Rogers.

    I will digress. Yes, I know, federal $/dictates (About 10% of overall education spending) has been destructive of education in this country, too. Fed $ mandates and teacher’s unions combined have given education the glide path of a Smith-Corona.
    If your uncle Ralph told you he would pay 10% of your college costs but he picks the school and major, you’d tell him to pound sand. Funny how I managed to go from no credit to a degree in 34 months, on GI Bill, and no debt. But everything I owned fit in a couple suitcases.


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