Monday, January 25, 2010

Designated Bus Lanes on Central + A Light Rail Line Proposal

Central Avenue in Albuquerque is the spine of the city. This is where the city started and this is where many activities continue to occur. In recent years, Central has also become the core of the Albuquerque transportation system. Currently, all three Rapid Ride routes run along Central, as well as a number of other regular routes. This corridor has by far the highest ridership anywhere in the city.

At the same time, it is not perfect. Buses do not run on time. They are slowed down by being in mixed traffic and they bunch up along the corridor, causing congestion. What should be done?

"Bus Only", or bus priority lanes are a great idea. They have been instituted in places across the world with great success. These lanes would be painted a different color and divided from regular traffic with dividers in some places. They would also double as right turn lanes at intersections, as well as queues for people trying to parallel park on Central. Initially, these special lanes should be implemented from Downtown to San Mateo. Central should have designated "Bus Only" lanes for a variety of reasons:

1. Less Space for Cars: The Central corridor most likely has the lowest rate of car ownership in the city of Albuquerque. The majority of cars in this corridor are from people commuting from other parts of the city. Many people residing on this corridor depend on alternative transportation modes. They should be rewarded for their transit usage. Also, if a bus priority lane is created, less people will have the desire to drive due to less space for cars being available; this study covers this concept.

2. Less Speeding/Safer Roads: When there are two lanes available next to each other, they encourage people to speed and pass the people in front of them. If only one lane is available, people will not have the option of passing people traveling the speed limit. This would make Central safer for drivers and pedestrians equally.

3. The Creation of a Transit Corridor: Making this kind of designation would enforce Centrals importance as a transportation corridor. If ridership increased enough, this corridor could eventually go though a comprehensive planning process to become a...

Light Rail Corridor

Having a light rail corridor along this route would be a great idea. It makes far more sense than trying to build a modern streetcar that would only connect Downtown with the airport. My idea for a light rail line would be in 4 phases:

Phase 1: Old Town to UNM (Central Corridor)- This corridor has high density, lots of students and great potential for light rail transit.

Phase 2: UNM to Uptown (central and Louisiana)- Though density along this corridor is quite a bit lower, the city could rework the zoning code along this route to create a denser corridor. Before this line is built, the city could rezone the entire Louisiana/Central edge of the fairgrounds to be medium density commercial and residential development. This would create a lot of potential ridership for this corridor, along with creating an active street edge.

Phase 3: Airport to Central- This spur would essentially connect all of Albuquerques major activity centers with light rail. This would also allow visitors to Albuquerque a reasonable alternative to renting a car.

Potential Phase 4: Old Town to the Southwest Transit Center- This could work, but only if the city rezones this entire stretch of Central as medium to high density. Creating a light rail line along this entire corridor would dramatically increase transit ridership and create a huge amount of investment.

This is a project that would take years to plan and implement, so the city should begin working on this idea as soon as possible.

Let's Review:

Designated bus lanes along the Central corridor from Downtown to San Mateo

Bus lanes would encourage/stimulate transit ridership

Bus lanes would double as right turn lanes

The development of this transit corridor would encourage the eventual construction of light rail along this route

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Why Is Biking Important?


This single word carries weight in the modern world of transportation planning. While the United States currently has a very low percentage of people using bikes for commuting or errands, the humble bicycle continues to be the number one personal transportation option for the world.

This phenomenon of high bicycle ridership occurs in both developing, undeveloped and highly developed countries. The universal use of the bicycle across the world makes sense because bikes are extremely efficient. Most energy used in cars is not used to move the passenger, but to move the heavy vehicle itself. That means that most fuel used in cars is essentially wasted because very little of it is being used to transport the passenger.

Since bikes are light weight, compact and small, most energy expended by the rider is used to simply move the rider. This makes for a very efficient transportation system. While some may argue that a bicycle can only carry one person (versus a car, which can carry up to 5 people) the vast majority of car trips in the United States are done by vehicles carrying one person.

The best advantage of biking as a transportation alternative is that most people in the United States own a bicycle. Though bicycle commuting is not very popular in the United States, bicycling as a recreational activity is extremely popular. This is a major advantage because:

1. Creating alternative transportation is usually expensive: The top reason any proposal for alternative transportation is shot down (new buses/ bus lines, new train lines, etc.) is due to cost. Focusing on creating major intercity bike networks is relatively cheap. Many time no new pavement needs to be layed; many times the lines just need to be reconfigured. Bus networks require the purchase of new buses every 15 years; bike routes simply require the repainting of lines. Since most people already own bikes, there is a vast amount of potential for successful bike networks across America. No necessary additional investment = much higher success rate.

2. The highest growth regions in the United States have perfect bike weather: Phoenix, Tucson, Las Vegas, Albuquerque, Texas, California, Florida: these states/cities not only have the highest population growth rates, but they also have great weather all year round! Though year round great weather is not required to create a successful bike network, people are far more likely to bike if there is nice weather.

Though cars are the best option in many transportation situations, there is plenty of room for alternatives. If we can make it easy for people to bike to the store, people will bike to the store. The numbers for bike travel in the United States are inaccurate because they fail to capture how much biking occurs.

For example, lets say the bike commute rate for Albuquerque is around 1%. This 1% number represents the number for the entire metro area. But what about the areas by the university? What about the parts of town that actually have bike infrastructure versus the parts of town that do not?

The percentage of people using bikes is far higher in areas that actually have quality bike infrastructure. If all of Albuquerque had the same level of bike infrastructure/ density that is present in the university area, the numbers would change dramatically.

In this situation, I truly believe the mantra of "if you build it, they will bike."

Friday, January 15, 2010

Building Bike Connections at Journal Center

Journal Center is one of the core employment centers in the Albuquerque metro area. It is not only one of the biggest employment centers in the state, but it is also growing at a rapid rate. As with many office parks developed in the past few decades, it is very car oriented. It is only served by a couple but routes and it is not well connected to the city bike network.

One advantage Journal Center has is that it could very easily be integrated with the city bike network. What is the major barrier that has prevented these connections from occurring?


Many bike routes and trails from the Northeast Heights terminate on the east side of I-25. Currently, the northernmost bike trail access from the east side of the freeway to the west side occurs at the North Diversion Channel Trail underpass, just south of Montgomery. This means that for anyone who lives north of Montgomery and east of I-25, there is no easy way to bike to Journal Center (or anything west of the freeway). There are 3 places where a crossing would be viable.

1. Bear Canyon Arroyo-Osuna/Brentwood: This location may the most viable for a number of reasons. The current bike access in this area consists of a trail spur off of the North Diversion Channel trail on the west side of the freeway and a marked bike lanes on the east side on Osuna. One reason this section would be viable as a crossing point is the spur off of the North Diversion Trail (labeled Bear Canyon Arroyo Trail West on the CABQ Interactive Bike Map) goes all the way to frontage road of the highway. This means that no new right of ways or trail construction would need to occur on the west side of the freeway.

On the east side, there would be a few issues to sort out. All the land on the other side appears to be privately owned, but much of this land is currently underutilized parking lots. If the city acquired a small strip of land, they could easily connect the crossing with Osuna. The reason for this easy connection is a small cul-de-sac called Brentwood Ln. NE. This is a short, low-traffic commercial access street that would be ideal as a bike route. If this plan was used, the city should work on making the bike lanes on Osuna extend all the way to the intersection, along with making the Brentwood/Osuna intersection safe for cyclists (using bulb-outs, speed bumps, etc.).

Another reason this would be a good route is because of the recent completion of the Academy Rd. bike lanes. There are now many ways for bike riders in this area to get to the freeway. Now the city must focus on getting them over the freeway.

2. Pino Trail-San Antonio/Ellison: The Pino Trail currently traverses a large part of the Heights and then terminates at I-25. This is one of the primary reasons this would be a great crossing point. One of the drawbacks is the lack of infrastructure on the west side of the freeway. The city would have to build new trail in order to connect the path with the bike lanes on this segment of Jefferson. Ideally, the trail should be extended all the way to the North Diversion Channel, which would require even more new trail construction.

One of the major advantages of putting a crossing on this route is that the existing Pino Trail is one consistent route from Eubank to I-25. This is significant because a crossing at this point would connect a large number of Heights residents with Journal Center.

3. South Domingo Baca Trail-Paseo del Norte/Lang Ave: The situation at this potential crossing point is similar to the situation of the Pino Trail: a long trail that goes through much of the Heights and no existing infrastructure on the west side of the freeway.

One advantage of this route would be the ability to connect this route with the Paseo del Norte trail. This trail currently parallels Paseo from the Diversion Channel to Coors on the other side of the Rio Grande. If an overpass was built on this part of the freeway, a trail could be paved along El Pueblo Rd. from the Diversion Channel to Jefferson. There is already a bridge crossing the Diversion Channel next to El Pueblo Rd. From Jefferson, the Lang/Jefferson crossing would have to be improved (signaled crosswalk, "Watch for Bike" signs, etc.). Lang could be designated a bike-friendly street for it's entire length.

A disadvantage of this route is the fact that this large amount of infrastructure would need to be built in order to properly connect this crossing to the network.

At this juncture, I think very high priority must be put on these crossings. If these crossing are not built, Journal Center will continue to be extremely car oriented. This would be unfortunate because this area has potential to be a nexus of bike commuting.

The 2 most viable options at the point would probably be routes 1 and 2. The Pino Trail especially has a lot of potential to add a large amount of bike commuters.

Let's Review:

More bike overpasses must be built over N. I-25.

This would connect North East Heights residents with a major growing employment area: Journal Center.

Two crossing are very viable: San Antonio/Pino Trail and Osuna/Bear Canyon Trail.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Bike Networks in Tucson vs. Albuquerque: A Brief Analysis

Since beginning college in Tucson, AZ, I spend most of my time residing there. One of the main things I enjoy about living in Tucson is how bike friendly it is. There are bike routes that connect all of the major activity centers. There are always people biking, especially around the campus, and the city has invested quite a bit of money on the bike network.

However, it is not random that Tucson has high bike ridership. Tucson has quite a few advantages: it is flat, the weather is always nice, and there are no major barriers separating the the main core activity centers: Downtown, 4th Ave. (similar to Nob Hill in Albuquerque) and the University of Arizona. Also, there are no highways, rivers or any other major barriers dividing up the core of Tucson.

This is Tucson biggest advantage. Since few bridges needed to be built over major arteries or rivers, the cost for bike infrastructure was, and continues to be, relatively cheap.

In Albuquerque, the situation is a little different: there are many barriers. The city is divided up by the Rio Grande river valley, I-25 and I-40. To some extent, Tramway, Coors and Paseo del Norte are also barriers, but they all have plenty of signaled crossings and Tramway even has bike/ pedestrian bridges in many areas.

To give an example of how Tucson is more fortunate than Albuquerque when it comes to bike connections, I will focus on the "core" corridor: Central. Central includes Nob Hill (similar to 4th Ave. in Tucson), UNM and Downtown. The Silver Bike Blvd. is the city's attempt at connecting all these districts, but at this point it is ineffective: it does not offer a consistent connection between these core areas. It is blocked by the railroad tracks and I-25.

The same area in Tucson is connected by a two lane road that has a "suicide lane" in the middle with biking lanes and car parking on the sides. This street configuration occurs along the entire stretch of road between the University and Downtown. This road is great for biking because it has little car traffic, has lots of space for biking and has a slow speed limit. The only barrier dividing Downtown and the University is the railroad tracks. This year, the City of Tucson completed a reconstruction of the underpass that connects the University and Downtown. It now has wide bike lanes and even wider sidewalks. Another advantage that Tucson has is that all of these areas are much closer together compared to these equivalent areas in Albuquerque.

These advantages, along with other bike friendly measures built by the city, lead to higher bike ridership in comparison to Albuquerque.

Let's Review:

Tucson is blessed with certain natural advantages.

These natural advantages allowed the city of Tucson to cheaply and easily build a great bike network.

The ABQ bike network is restricted by three main barriers: Rio Grande, I-25 and I-40.

In future posts, I will address specific infrastructure improvements that must occur in Albuquerque in order to transform our current bike network (which is not bad) into a great network.

Friday, January 8, 2010

CNM Westside + the 155 Coors ABQ Ride Route

In my previous post, I discussed the possibility of creating a bus route that would connect many of the CNM campuses. One of the disadvantages I listed was that this route would not connect with the Westside CNM due to the fact that the Westside campus is automobile oriented and far from most of the city. However, the 155 Coors route could provide this connection.

As stated in my previous post, the ideal southern terminus for the 155 Coors route would be the South Valley CNM campus. This would be the ideal terminus because:
A. It is a designated Park and Ride facility.
B. All CNM students have free transit passes, making them ideal potential transit users.
C. It is just down the road from the current terminus of the 155 Coors.

So, it has been established that a southern terminus for the Coors route at this facility would be ideal. What about the northern terminus?

Currently, the northern terminus is at the Northwest Transit Center. This is a great terminus for any route because it provides connections with a plethora of routes (including the Blue Line Rapid Ride) and provides other amenities such as free parking. However, if the 155 Coors route was to continue further from the transit center, where could it go?

One possibility for this route would be for it to continue from the transit center to the Westside CNM campus. The best route for this connection would travel down Ellison to McMahon. Ideally, this route would go down McMahon to Universe. According to Google Maps, McMahon does not yet connect to Universe, so for now, the route would cut through the neighborhood adjacent (following Kayenta Blvd. to Avenida Madrid to Universe/ CNM).

Why should this route travel down McMahon versus Irving?

McMahon currently has higher population density then the parallel Irving corridor. Also, McMahon has lots of adjacent vacant land, which means the population of this area will continue to grow. In addition, a portion of this segment of Irving turns into a narrow road with houses facing the roadway. It would be harder to convince residents along this route to accept a bus route.

This route extension would be great not only for CNM students, but also for residents along this route. Providing residents along this route a direct connection to the Northwest Transit Center would create a great new commuting option. From the Northwest Transit Center, one can travel to most of the city of Albuquerque.

Another option for this bus route would be to create an entirely separate bus route that would just connect CNM to the transit center. This could be a better option, since this corridor probably would not attract as high of ridership as the rest of the Coors route. However, with proper bus stop construction and advertising of this route extension, this segment of the Coors route has high ridership potential.

Let's Review:

The southern Coors 155 terminus should be at the South Valley CNM campus (using Gun Club Rd. and Isleta).

The northern Coors 155 terminus should be at the Westside CNM campus (using Ellison, McMahon and eventually Universe).

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

CNM, ABQ Ride and a New Improved Bus Route

The CNM Montoya Campus is not easy to get to without a car. Though it is in close proximity to many bike routes and bus routes, it does not interact well with each of these modes. What if the Montoya Campus had better transportation options? How would this work?

Let us examine the facts:
1. CNM is now the largest provider of higher education in the state of New Mexico.
2. All UNM and CNM students in Albuquerque have free access to the ABQ Ride transportation system.
3. There are currently no routes that quickly and directly connect the Montoya/ Eastside Campus or the South Valley Campus with the main CNM campus.
4. Many students take classes at multiple campuses.
5. The 97 Zuni route is one of the lowest ridership routes in the ABQ Ride system.
6. Morris St. has good potential for an ABQ Ride route due to it's proximity to a diverse density of housing and connection potential to other bus routes.

My proposal: Create an ABQ Ride route that connects most of the CNM campuses in Albuquerque, along with connecting other important parts of the metro.

My route concept would basically combine two currently existing routes (the 97 Zuni and the 53 Isleta) and then add a spur at the east end of the Zuni route that would go east on Central to Eubank, north on Eubank to Lomas, east on Lomas to Morris, and then the route would follow Morris north until it terminated at the Montoya CNM Campus (TVI Road NE and Morris St. NE on Google Maps).

This route alone could provide a great service to the students who currently attend CNM, but in order for it to be truly great route, some other adjustments must be made.

1. Currently, only Main Campus requires an annual paid parking pass. This makes sense, as Main is in a denser area and well connected with bike routes and bus routes. If the Valley and Montoya Campuses charged a small amount of money for a parking pass (maybe $20 per year) and this bus route was added, there would be a better incentive in place for students to use alternative transportation. Also, the money could be used to construct transit improvements (bike racks, bus shelters, etc.)

2. In this same vein, the 155 Coors route must be extended all the way down Gun Club road and terminate at the South Valley CNM campus. This route extension makes sense for a variety of reasons, one of the more obvious reasons being that most people attending the South Valley campus don't live anywhere near the current 53 route, the only route currently serving the campus. Also, it makes sense for a route to terminate at a Park and Ride facility (the South Valley CNM campus) instead of halfway down a street (Gun Club Rd).

3. Zuni Road must be reconfigured. Currently, it has two lanes in each direction with no middle turn lane. This is not only dangerous, but also inefficient. Every time a car has to turn (left or right) all the traffic in that lane must stop. This puts pressure and stress on the turning driver and causes lots of congestion. The improved Zuni Rd. would have a middle "suicide lane" and a single auto lane and bike lane on each side. Since Zuni/Lead/Coal parallel Central, this is a great potential bike route. Also, this kind of improvement on 4 lane streets has been done successfully across the city of ABQ and in cities across the nation. Less car lanes means less traffic, more bikes, more pedestrians and most likely more bus riders.

4. The terminus of the route at the Montoya Campus should be a transit center instead of just a simple bus stop. This terminus has great potential to be a plaza/ transportation hub because of it's location next to a major multi-use path (the Bear Canyon path). Currently, the connection between CNM and the multi-use path is dangerous and is not bike/handicapped friendly. If the CNM campus could eliminate 33 parking spaces, they could create a nice decorated bus shelter and a plaza with trees, benches, tables and bike racks. If this kind of visual (bike and bus transportation) greeted every student at the front door everyday, there would definitely be a different mindset about alternative transportation on the campus. This plaza would be connected with a bike/ handicapped ramp to the multi-use trail, proving ease of access for walkers and bikers. This station would also be labeled as a Park and Ride facility on city bus maps, cementing the importance of this stop and creating another use for the pre-existing parking spaces on the CNM campus.

Also, in order for the Bear Canyon trail to get a use increase, Manitoba between Juan Tabo and Tramway should be designated a bike route. This would connect the Tramway Trail to the Bear Canyon Trail/ Montoya Campus. This connection would be advertised within the school.

5. The current CNM campus stop on Lead going west must be moved off of Lead and onto Coal Pl. (different from Coal eastbound, which is labeled as Coal Ave. SE). The advantage of moving this stop is that it would:
A. Bring students to the front door of the campus instead of a block away from campus.
B. Create an opportunity for visual interaction with the CNM campus through the bus stop (decorated bus stops, students driving seeing other students using the bus, etc.)

6. The route must be branded and advertised. Though this sounds unorthodox, this is an unorthodox bus route. The most important advertising must take place within the actual CNM campuses themselves. The walls of the campus would be covered with posters and fliers advertising this bus route. The posters/fliers would emphasize three important facts:
A. the city bus is FREE for all CNM students!
B. this is a NEW bus route
C. this new bus route connects students with 3 of the 4 main CNM campuses, along with the Alvarado Transportation Center, the zoo, the Hispanic Cultural Center, etc.

Another good place to advertise the new route would be a temporary sign screwed to the bus stop signs ("The bus now stops here! Visit or call ABQ-RIDE!").
Branding is also important. My idea for a route name would be The 88: CNM Connector. This is a work in progress, but the advantage of this number is it's symmetrical (88), easy to say, rhymes with lots of words and the words accurately describe one of the primary functions of this route. Putting a new number/ name on the route allows people to forget about the old routes that used to run on Isleta and Zuni and establish a new opinion about the route.

7. The bus along this route must run at least as frequently, if not more frequently than the current route 53 Isleta. This route runs every half hour and runs until at least 6:00. The new route should run later, such as until 9, at a minimum. The average CNM student has a very fluid schedule. Every half hour is often enough that it will attract new ridership.

8. The route must run along Lead and Coal all the way through Downtown to 8th St. This would add more consistency to the route.

The advantages of this new route would be:
1. Automatically High Route Ridership: All these students have free transit passes; enough said
2. Less Traffic in the Entire City: Who wouldn't want this?
3. More Transportation Options For Residents Along the Route: Options benefit everyone.
4. CNM Spending More Money on Classrooms Instead of Parking Lots: More efficient use of taxpayer dollars and tuition money
5. A Student Body That Can Save Money on Transportation and Use The Money for Other Things: This money could be invested in higher education and job training.
6. Less People Driving on the Crowded Roads, More People Using Underutilized Trails, Sidewalks and Buses: Creates more balanced traffic flows.

1. Costs Money: Though the upfront costs may be high, this kind of route would have many long-term benefits discussed above.
2. Direct Valley/ Far Northeast Heights Connection: Some NE Heights residents may not want people from the Isleta and Zuni corridor in their neighborhoods.
3. Does Not Connect All CNM Campuses: Does not serve the Westside Campus, the CNM Technology Annex, or the CNM Workforce Training Center. The Westside Campus is very far from everything, very automobile oriented, and mostly serves students who live on the Westside. The other two facilities are small and are already served directly by other bus routes that would connect to the future 88 route.

Let's Review:

The 88: CNM Connector

Serving Isleta, Zuni/Lead/Coal, and Morris

Bike lanes along Zuni

Transit center/ Park and Ride at the Montoya CNM campus

Bus stop moved closer to CNM Main on Lead section of route

Connects 3 CNM campuses, Downtown/Alvarado, the Zoo, the South Valley, the Hispanic Cultural Center and mucho, mucho mas!