Albuquerque: A Rare “Gold” BRT

Albuquerque’s new Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line is open, and it’s different from most such projects that we’re seeing in US cities of similar size.  Quite simply, most of it is protected from traffic congestion, thanks to a median bus-only lane.  It’s the red segment (with green stations) on this map (full map here)

ABQ brt map

Albuquerque BRT alignment. Red with green stations denotes exclusive bus lanes.

This is why it’s being called a “Gold” standard right of way by the global Institute for Transport and Development Policy (ITDP).  ITDP Gold is not just another feel-g0od award; it has a specific meaning in their international BRT standard, and the core point is protection from traffic.

ABQ BRT station

Yes, the lanes are red. No excuse for not seeing them. (Photo: Albuquerque Rapid Transit, http://www.brtabq.com/)

Many, many US BRT projects start out with exclusive lanes, but then make too many compromises along the way.  In the worst cases, they end up as a bunch of nice infrastructure but little or no improvement in travel times.  My own view is that if a bus does not have protection from traffic in the segments where it is needed to deliver a reliable operation, then it’s not BRT.  For example, Las Vegas has a fine segment of busway that delivers buses from the traffic jam of downtown to the traffic jam of the Las Vegas Strip, but it doesn’t exist where it’s most needed, which is to get through those jams.

Albuquerque’s looks like a breakthrough in this regard.

And no, it’s not a problem that the buses continue beyond the end of the right of way to do further things in mixed traffic at the east end of the line.  One of the great virtues of BRT is that it can do this.  The vehicles are not confined to the infrastructure, as rail transit is, so they can continue to key destinations beyond the busway itself.  Of course, if those mixed traffic segments become too congested, the busway will eventually need to be extended further.

So congratulations to Albuquerque.  It looks like the opening day went well.  I hope the system helps other cities see the benefits of not compromising on the most critical element of BRT — protection from traffic delay.

11 Responses to Albuquerque: A Rare “Gold” BRT

  1. Johnathan November 28, 2017 at 3:54 pm #

    I haven’t seen it running live, but it is a promising start for VET project in the US. I noticed that there is more argument what would work better than actual work. I hope it will change soon. Also being a car-dependent country, US people has hard time to give his/has spot in jam.

  2. Jonathan Hallam November 28, 2017 at 10:51 pm #

    Hi,

    It looks like there’s a big mixed-traffic (shared driving lane) section right in the center? Did I miss something? Also, what’s going on with the route splitting through that central section?

    Yours,

    JMH

    • Trevor Scott November 29, 2017 at 6:42 am #

      Narrow streets through downtown meant using a one-way pair for a half dozen blocks.

      • Novacek November 29, 2017 at 1:28 pm #

        You mean narrow streets through downtown and not being willing to give up parking on _both_ sides. You can see the cross sections on the full map above.

        It looks like a good system, but it could be better.

  3. Jeff Wegerson November 29, 2017 at 1:56 pm #

    Albuquerque needs to be careful. Sure BRT works now. But gold BRT’s can become a slippery slope to rail.

    • Garth Macleod December 4, 2017 at 9:04 am #

      Jeff
      I am interested in why you say ‘a slippery slope to rail ‘. Rail has pro and cons compared to BRT I presume you are more to cons and I wondered why?

  4. Cam Solomon December 4, 2017 at 3:41 pm #

    I live here in Albuquerque, and I think I am the only one who likes this, other than those crazy planners, and the dudes paid money to build it.

    I mainly like it because it creates congestion and slows traffic down. I’m not very popular.

    Hopefully public opinion will change once it’s operational, but I doubt it. 99% of the population drives, there is no traffic to speak of, and the both traffic and population are static to declining.

    • Bob T December 4, 2017 at 9:41 pm #

      There are MANY of us in ABQ that like this project. But that doesn’t sell newspapers.

      • Nik K December 7, 2017 at 9:46 pm #

        I am another Burqueño in favor of the project.

    • Marissa December 8, 2017 at 5:59 am #

      My husband and I decided to move around the time ART was being conceptualized. After many months of trying to figure out where, we chose Abq, and may not have made that decision if it weren’t for ART. I know that construction has been rough and people here love to complain about it (“Lead and Coal will become a demolition derby!”), but I believe that this system will lead to a lot of positive growth for Abq. It is already leading to development and tons of investment, and I think the whole picture (ART plus new businesses and housing) is going to attract young people to move here.

      From what I can see via riding in the limited run and the overall layout of the plan, I think the system has a lot of promise.

  5. Harris Balkin December 9, 2017 at 11:31 am #

    I am really excited about the arrival of A.R.T. in Albuquerque. Our city is now thinking about the future and will attract others looking for an alternate mode of movement other than their cars. The buses are quiet, and move effortlessly around the traffic on the central. Before judging, we should all give it a try to see how forward thinking this system really is and is near completion without the additional time and expense it would have taken to build a light rail system.

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