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

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