ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Business owners feel the city isn’t putting its best foot forward to welcome thousands of people into downtown and they want to change that. For decades, Albuquerque has been a stop for train passengers along the southwest. Videos of the 1950s train service show passengers hopping off and shopping.
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However, today it looks a little different. Albuquerque is now a service stop for Amtrak with passengers having layovers in the city for nearly an hour, according to Amtrak.
“That is a gift to the city. It’s a gift that they never opened,” said Patricia Hoech, owner of Patricia Designs. She is a long-time downtown business owner but for her, today’s stopover doesn’t offer what it once did.
“You get off at the train and it’s this barren, unwelcoming, uninviting,” Hoech said. She and other downtown businesses want to welcome Amtrak passengers. Some are looking for something similar to the welcoming monitor and information kiosk the Albuquerque International Sunport has.
“The film is running with Native dancers and the mountains and the river – you’re instantly captivated with how Albuquerque must be,” Hoech said. She said she’s been trying to work on this project with the city for years and has even drawn up renderings of a kiosk with brochures and maps of where train passengers can walk to for a souvenir, cup of coffee, or bite to eat before hopping back on the next train.
Other business owners are on board with bringing a type of welcoming kiosk for Amtrak passengers.
“Not only to bring up the income for those small businesses but to show the tourists that there’s other things in Albuquerque to see while they’re here on a little short visit,” said Karla Moore, owner of Simply Sinful Donuts which just opened in the historic Simms Building.
“Being new to the downtown area, I quickly noticed a trend of Amtrak passengers coming to my studio gallery on Gold and 4th. It became apparent that some sort of mention of the area’s shopping and eateries to travelers who have a 45-minute rest stop at the Alvarado Transportation Center needed to happen, so I reached out to a few different departments at the city. I later learned that some sort of cultural welcome has been an ongoing effort for decades. I sure would like to see some sort of welcome kiosk happen soon because a shop like mine with an assortment of all things local would pair well with tourist foot traffic,” said Amy Baca Lopez, a gallery owner in the Simms Building.
Hoech argues one good experience can lead to future Albuquerque tourism. “If we have somebody come in and have such a nice stroll around town for half an hour, they say you know I might come back to Albuquerque. I might make Albuquerque a little weekend getaway and then they’d actually buy a hotel room,” she said.
Amtrak said an information or welcome kiosk like this isn’t unusual for their stations but that they are a tenant of the building and such a decision would be up to the city, which owns the building.
“The downtown Amtrak train and Greyhound bus station are both leased to these companies by the City of Albuquerque. The city has met with local businesses downtown regarding a kiosk at this location and will look at ways to support them as they work with the tenants,” said Johnny Chandler, a spokesperson with Albuquerque’s Planning Department.
Tania Armenta, president & CEO of Visit Albuquerque sent the following statement in an email:
“It’s inspiring to see downtown business owners taking initiative to market to this group of travelers, and it seems like a prime opportunity to further capture these visitors’ attention. Visit Albuquerque has partnered with Amtrak over the years on various marketing initiatives and we actively promote to travelers in markets serviced by Amtrak. The organization has also been involved in past efforts to provide visitor information at the transportation center, with mixed results. We would welcome the opportunity to revisit the conversation to brainstorm fresh ideas on an ideal solution.”