Boost in proposed transit budget includes millions for ART

Albuquerque’s Transit Department could see a big boost in funding with millions going toward ART before it’s even expected to start rolling.

Mayor Tim Keller’s proposed budget allocates $2.4 million in operating costs for ART in Fiscal Year 2020. Approximately $500,000 of that is for maintenance and increased fuel costs for the new buses, according to Transit Director Bernie Toon.

“The operations and maintenance costs are a little higher on clean diesel buses, non-electric buses,” he said.

Additionally, more noticeable changes could come along the ART route with another $900,000 proposed as a separate, one-time cost to put windscreens on the stations and for more signage for drivers and ART passengers.

“Maps and sort of additional wayfinding on the stations,” Toon explained.

The ART funding is a chunk of the proposed $56 million transit budget. That’s a $4.5 million boost from last year, some of it for bus maintenance work.

“It’s been an area where we’ve been underfunded in the past,” Toon said.

Transit admits ridership is down and is expected to bring in just $4 million in fares, according to city documents.

“Everyone’s riding their bikes, walking or taking their personal vehicles,” Blake Meyer of Albuquerque said.

“Our fare box revenues, the money that we take in on the buses, varies from about 7 to 10 percent of the total cost of running the buses,” Toon added.

That’s an incredibly low number by industry standards. Fares cover around thirty percent of the costs for most mass transit systems around the country.

Toon said it’s a direct result of the city keeping fares down, and that they’ve been unchanged since 2003.

Transit said it will look at ways to make the bus system more efficient by doing a study of the routes.

ART could start running a little more than a year from now after the 20 customized diesel buses get to Albuquerque.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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