ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Two years behind schedule, the city says it is now “go time” for Albuquerque Rapid Transit this weekend.
For the first time ever, ART will offer full service along Central between Unser and Tramway from 5:45 a.m. to 11 p.m. for Small Business Saturday.
The service launch comes almost two-years to the day after former Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry cut the ribbon on limited ART service for River of Lights on November 26, 2017.
Months after ART’s initial opening, Mayor Tim Keller put an indefinite delay on the project as the city discovered issues with ART’s initial all-electric bus fleet and problems with the bus platforms on the route.
Today, the city says all of those problems are fixed and ART is ready to go.
“We cannot wait,” said Rick DeReyes, spokesman for ABQ RIDE. “All we want to do is just get this up and running and get this going and once we do that, we feel that a tremendous burden will be lifted off our shoulders.”
The city’s hope is that ART’s “bus only” lanes on Central will help deliver faster and more frequent service. The city estimates ART buses will arrive at their stations along Central every eight to fifteen minutes.
“If we think it performs the way it should perform, I think people will be impressed,” DeReyes said Friday in an interview with KRQE News 13, hours before the start of service.
An impressive showing is what some on Central hope for, as well.
“We’re hoping that it brings more business and it allows easy travel for the students to come back and forth,” said Nancy Portillo, manager of Organ Mountain Outfitters, one of Central’s newest retail businesses.
A Las Cruces native, Portillo recently moved to Albuquerque to help open the new business. She says news of the ART saga was impossible to avoid even in the southern end of the state.
“It had made such a detrimental impact until now and I think that it’s going to boost the Nob Hill economy,” said Portillo.
The lead up to ART’s launch hasn’t been lost on Nob Hill shoppers like Sky and Amy. Both lived in Albuquerque in years past, remembering several older businesses that are no longer open.
“It’s too bad that it took so long to get going,” Sky said.
“What’s been hard is seeing so many businesses go under and so much turnover,” said Amy.
Some are optimistic however that ART can help bring Central back to form.
“We want Albuquerque to grow and prosper and be a better place for me and my family,” said Maria Todd, who went to one of Nob Hill’s newest businesses Friday.
The city is offering free rides on ART through the end of the year. At capacity, the city says 17 ART buses will be traveling on the route during the weekdays. The city expects ridership on Central to double with the new service.