City to wait for all 20 new buses before launching ART service in mid-2020

Albuquerque Rapid Transit bus service may be more than another year out under the city’s current plan. 

While they once entertained the idea of partial ART service as buses became available, officials with the city’s Transit Department now say they’re planning on waiting for every single ART bus to be delivered to Albuquerque before starting any level of service. 

The city is still waiting on delivery of 20 diesel-powered, 60-foot buses from a company called “New Flyer.” Those buses are slated to replace the problematic electric buses originally planned for the project. 

“We don’t have a set timetable for when the buses will be here,” said Rick DeReyes, spokesman for ABQ RIDE, speaking of the city’s new bus order. 

The city has been relatively quiet about its ART plans since holding one of its last news conferences about the ART project in December 2018. 

During that news conference, Mayor Tim Keller announced that the city of Albuquerque would be taking electric bus maker BYD to court. 

BYD was initially contracted by the city to build several 60-foot all-electric buses for the ART project. The city is trying to terminate its contract with BYD over late-delivery and concerns over the build quality of the buses. 

“We’re going to let BYD and the lawyers deal with the rest, and our city’s going to move on, we’re going to move on without BYD,” said Keller during a December 2018 news conference. 

However, in “moving on,” the city’s been silent about when and how future ART bus service will emerge. 

“This time, in order for us to start, we’ve got to do it right,” said DeReyes. 

Doing it right means the city will almost definitely be waiting until next year for any shred of ART bus service. 

The city says it will wait until all 20 of the new buses are delivered to Albuquerque before launching ART on Central. 

“In talking with our director, he has said that no, when we start service, it will be full service, it won’t be partial service,” said DeReyes. 

The plan somewhat contrasts with the city had considered initially for ART service, before the city had gotten rid of the BYD buses. 

In November 2018, Mayor Tim Keller suggested the possibility of partial service as the initial electric buses became available. 

“The other plan is how we might have a mixed fleet of buses so that we can begin at least some sort of partial service,” Keller said during a November 2018 news conference. 

DeReyes says for now, partial service isn’t under consideration. 

“It’s just going to take some time to do it right,” said DeReyes. 

Once the city gets the new-diesel powered buses, they’ll have to outfit them with the custom graphics and all of the technology they use like fare collection systems and security cameras. 

The city says in the meantime, they’re working on items like signal timing technology so that the ART buses won’t have to deal with that when they get running.

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