Company responsible for ART bus problems was not city’s first choice

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – You’ve heard about the problems and delays with the buses for the Albuquerque Rapid Transit project, but could they have been avoided?

Part of the delay with ART can be attributed to the bus company being behind schedule. It turns out, the Chinese bus company wasn’t the city’s first choice.

“I don’t want to throw anyone under the bus — no pun intended — but I think BYD, ‘Build Your Dreams’ company, is going to have to get this right,” City Council President Ken Sanchez said.

Electric bus company BYD has been in the spotlight since the city revealed half of the buses for ART that should have arrived in October still aren’t here, and there are issues with the chargers.

“The actual charging system that charges the batteries shorted out and burnt out,” CABQ Chief Operating Officer Lawrence Rael said.

Albuquerque City Council President Ken Sanchez says despite the headaches and frustrations, he’s optimistic BYD will get the job done because it has a lot to lose.

“If not, they’re going to lose a huge contract, plus they’re going to lose goodwill across the country,” Sanchez said.

It’s not the first time BYD has faced criticism in the U.S.

The Huffington Post even reported it was a “PR nightmare” after BYD was accused of “manufacturing unsafe buses” in big California cities.

Sanchez says ABQ Ride’s ad hoc committee actually chose the other guys that submitted a bid — a company called New Flyer that offered the city a hybrid electric bus.

However, Sanchez says former Mayor Richard Berry’s administration went with BYO.

“The administration was looking for more cleaner and more energy-efficient buses and both companies offered the electric buses, but in the end, New Flyer was basically charging more,” Sanchez said.

The final contract price for eighteen, 60-foot long electric buses came to nearly $23 million.

BYD says because Albuquerque chose electric buses, the city will save money on maintenance and running costs to the tune of $29 million for the entire fleet, which will pay for the replacement fleet after 12 years.

BYD has representatives in Albuquerque to work with the transit department on the bus issues. Taxpayers will not have to foot the bill for the extra work, and BYD says the city won’t pay them for the buses until the job is finished.

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