ABQ RIDE among country’s least-cost effective bus systems

Albuquerque News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Is Albuquerque’s bus system too big and too costly for how few people use it? KRQE News 13 has learned ABQ RIDE had another dismal year. As ridership continues to shrink, the city’s bus system now ranks as one of the least successful in the country.

Mass transit isn’t supposed to make a profit, but Albuquerque’s bus system is sinking deeper and deeper into the red. The number of people using ABQ RIDE has plummeted by 30% over the past five years.

“I live close enough to downtown to work and drive it’s easier for me,” says John Samore. “It just seems very dangerous to ride the bus in Albuquerque. Like, there are very dramatic things that happen on the bus all the time. Lots of drug use, lots of violence,” says Jordan Koelmel.

There were more than 9 million riders in the budget year that just ended, down about a half-million from the year before. “It’s been difficult for Albuquerque to find a way to keep the ridership up,” Samore says.

Not only are fewer people riding, the city is getting less bang for its buck. The city is only getting back about 7.5-cents in fares for every dollar they spend to run the buses, one of the worst rates in the country. The average city recoups 24 cents on the dollar.

Transit officials say ridership is slipping all over the country. “Even the larger cities like Denver and Phoenix have shown a decrease, says ABQ RIDE Spokesperson Rick DeReyes.

DeReyes believes fewer people are hopping on the bus here because of lower gas prices, and because the ART project scared riders away. He says if the downward trend continues, they will do a comprehensive overview of every single route. “See which ones are underperforming. If that’s the case, we may have to look at scaling down some of those routes,” DeReyes says.

But they are hopeful things will bounce back once the ART is up and running. “I think it’s going to be an improvement, and we hope it will boost ridership later in the winter,” DeReyes says.

Last year, the city’s bus system cost $42 million to run. They only made back a little more than $3 million in fares. Albuquerque only charges $1 a ride, one of the lowest fares of any big city in the country.

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