The city is warning drivers to stay out of Albuquerque Rapid Transit project’s new bus-only lanes as bus operators are dodging people, parked cars and a lot of impatient drivers.
The warning comes as the city works through the tail end of the training process for the majority of its ABQ Ride bus drivers. By November, the city says around 200 drivers will be trained to pull ART’s 60-foot buses up to the new center-road bus stations.
Even with more ART buses training on the streets, ART trainers say they are seeing a lot of bad behavior from other drivers.
“After 3:30, four o-clock (p.m.) over here, it’s a madhouse,” said Leo LaPlante, who trains drivers on the new ART route.
In a single run between Coors and Louisiana, trainers say they will see drivers make illegal left turns across Central’s bus-only lanes, pedestrians standing in the street and even some drivers parked in the middle of dedicated bus-only lanes.
On a training route Tuesday, KRQE News 13’s camera spotted a Sysco food delivery truck parked in a bus-only lane in front of a Nob Hill restaurant.
“Until we get all the buses out here, it’s probably going to stay like that,” said LaPlante.
The city is planning for a winter rollout of “limited” ART service this winter.
As drivers train to hit that target, their trips on Central are often slowed, stopped or forced to detour around people and cars who should not be in the ART lanes.
“They’re continually surprised at how many people keep crossing those lines,” said Rick DeReyes, spokesman for ABQ RIDE.
DeReyes say the crossover is problematic and dangerous because of the challenge ART drivers are already facing. ART buses drive in a combination of mixed traffic, and bus-only lanes.
“There are enough different twists and turns for them to be mindful of,” said DeReyes.
Other elements that make driving ART a challenge include the left-side bus stops, different looking traffic signals with horizontal and vertical lines and some areas where buses have to make tight turns in front of traffic.
The city is in the middle of a 14 to 16 week stretch of training. Each ABQ RIDE driver is expected to get one on one training with a driving coach about how the route works.
As training is expected to wrap up in November, the city hopes other drivers take note that “bus only” truly means “bus only.”
“We want to make sure that people are safe,” said DeReyes.
APD says drivers who are caught rolling in or turning through a bus-only lane will be ticketed and can face an $80 fine.