ART buses seeing more riders than old Rapid Ride service

Local News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – New ridership data appears to show the city’s newly launched Albuquerque Rapid Transit bus system is drawing more riders than the prior system it replaced.

Even before ART’s infrastructure was built, the city’s big promise was that ART would double the amount of ridership along the Central Avenue corridor as compared to Rapid Ride service. Newly released numbers show in December 2019, when the city launched ART’s first month of service with free tickets, the city saw a roughly 112% increase in ART ridership compared to Rapid Ride ridership in December 2018.

The city says 209,254 riders combined rode on ART’s Red Line and Green Line in December 2019, compared to 102,284 combined riders on Rapid Ride’s Red and Green routes in December 2018. January numbers show another ridership increase on ART, however, not as much as December.

The city says 139,461 riders used the ART Red and Green lines in January 2020, as compared to 106,848 riders who used the Rapid Ride’s Red and Green routes in January 2019. The difference represents about a 30% increase in ridership on ART.

“I think it was neat,” said Danny Holcomb, director of the city of Albuquerque’s transit department, responding to the numbers in an interview Friday. “We hope it continues throughout.”

When asked about the city’s expectations for ART ridership, Holcomb said, “I think (since) day one, we’ve just been cautiously optimistic, that it would increase.”

In the past though, the city has made much bolder predictions about ART’s ridership draw. In a 2016 city-made promo video, an announcer said, “With ART ridership projected to double in the first year of operation, ART is a smart investment.”

Holcomb confirmed that doubling projection in a November news conference where the city announced the start date for ART service. “What we’re expecting is to double the Rapid Ride ridership right now,” Holcomb said.

KRQE News 13 asked Friday if doubling Rapid Ride ridership on ART is still the city’s goal. “We have no idea what the numbers are going to be like in a year from now, but we hope it continues, we hope we see it, an increase in ridership,” Holcomb said.

Over the next year of service, Holcomb says he’s hoping more than anything that the city sees a decrease in the number of crashes between ART buses and cars. Right now, the city says it’s not looking at ART’s success or failure as a metric for any decisions they’ll make about future service.

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