ART Backers: Prepare for Disappointment

Source: 2012-2016 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates

Albuquerque Rapid Transit is up and running, and the Rio Grande Foundation eagerly awaits its initial ridership figures.

In the meantime, the U.S. Census Bureau has released new data that provide more evidence that any kind of “transit” project is unsuitable for the Duke City.

In 2016, mean travel time to work for Burquenos was a rather pleasant 23.4 minutes. (The stat does not include people who work from home.) That’s below — in some cases, well below — the comparable figure for most metro regions with more than 500,000 residents. (Washington, D.C.: 34.4 minutes; Atlanta: 31.0 minutes; Boston: 30.6 minutes; Miami: 30.6 minutes; Seattle: 29.6 minutes; Dallas: 27.9 minutes; Nashville: 27.0 minutes.)

As the chart above shows, Albuquerque’s travel time has barely budged in the last seven years. (Maybe there is one advantage to a moribund economy.) And with only 2.1 percent of commuters taking “public transportation,” it’s clear that cars are working just fine for the vast majority of the Duke City’s workers.

Government trains and buses enjoy relatively high “market shares” in urban areas with high population density. (The top ten are listed below.) Transit doesn’t work, and can’t work, in cities like Albuquerque. Too bad the “visionaries” behind ART prefer social engineering to incontrovertible facts.

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11 Replies to “ART Backers: Prepare for Disappointment”

  1. I guess we should be thankful ART only cost about $120 million. Richardson spent around $500 million on a train and $200 million on a spaceport and they lose millions every year.

    1. Most, if not all, transit systems lose money if you consider the cost of operation to the revenues from ticket sales. But they are considered of social benefit, so they are considered worth the tax revenue to support them.

      1. Thanks for your comment. As a public-policy analyst, I’m not very interested in what is “considered of social benefit.” I’m interested in what actually is of social benefit. And transit doesn’t make the cut. As Randal O’Toole has documented for decades, “transit costs far more than driving and does not save energy or reduce air pollution or greenhouse gas emissions.” His work is well worth your time. Here’s his blog, and here’s his work for the Cato Institute.

        1. Just to clarify, the only justification for government-funded transit that I’ve ever found semi-plausible is the travel demand of people with limited means/special needs. The obvious answer for the able-bodied poor is robust economic growth, so that they can provide their own mobility. But for the truly disadvantaged, such as poor elderly folks without family, the severely disabled, etc. — a very, very small portion of the population — the policy response should have been vouchers for the procurement of private transportation. Now, with app-enabled ride hailing and the imminent dawn of driverless cars, the whole world is changing radically. We should immediately move to a system where competitive, point-to-point transport is subsidized for the tiny number of people who need it.

          Of course, a system like that means no social engineering for the “smart growth” set, and no “transit departments” that provide votes and campaign cash to municipal pols. Horrors!

      2. Most transit systems do lose money. That is a strong indicator that the demand for them is not as great as politicians would like it to be and that a vast majority should not be built or that their management is poor (another truism especially in bigger, transit-intensive states). On the flip side, even if a transit project can be expected to lose money, there has to be some willingness to prioritize projects based on their level of passenger support. New Mexico’s Rail Runner passengers pay in about 10% of operations which is extremely low and the Albuquerque bus system passengers also pay about 10% of operations. Those are indicators that these projects are not worth it even relative to other transit projects.

  2. A.R.T. is currently at 135 million, FTA has not approved project: 80 million is what we asked for, it was whittled to 50 million and no funding for 2018. But only with FTA approval. Even at that, we would still be upside down about 85 million. Not Keller’s fault, directly, but as Auditor he was apprised about project, 1-1. The ABQ City Council and Mayor Berry blindly led the city around, with little or no approval from Citizens. After lawsuits, and project completion we will be nearer 200 million. The buses have not arrived from China, and the project is not complete. Lawrence Rael new COO, found that none of the boarding plaforms were ADA complaint. Stay informed as A>R>T> the leaking fountain, lack of resources for police, and we want a penguin exhibit? Is that before or after we provide jobs, housing or food aid, or before we assist with opoid epidemic. More to come.

  3. Every weekday I drive by the Los Ranchos/Journal Center park-and-ride RailRunner parking lot and the Bernalillo lot, they’re over brimming with cars. To paraphrase Yogi Berra, the commuter train must have gotten so popular, no one uses it anymore. No social benefit there. None, not at all. Zippo.

    1. Nice anecdote. Here are some data. The Rail Runner’s ridership has declined for seven years in a row. It fell by more than 32 percent between the 2010 and 2017 fiscal years. Meanwhile, expenses are rising, and the positive train control mandate and balloon payments in the 2020s will make this boondoggle only costlier.

      Massive “social benefit” there. Impressive. Enormous.

  4. Can’t wait till all that “new money” anticipated by the state has to go to pay off the balloon payments due the Rail Runner. Poof……Gone with the Wind!

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