Mayor on ART project: “We are putting BYD on legal notice”

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Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller announced Tuesday it could be another year and a half before the ART starts rolling on Central Avenue.

At a news conference, he said the city is scrapping the deal on the buses from Chinese company BYD, but not scrapping the controversial project.

“We are not going to be the guinea pig any longer for BYD’s experimentation,” Keller said. “We have officially provided notice with this letter that we are rejecting all of the buses. We are sending them all back and we are likely going to seek damages from BYD.”

The city had said the buses had numerous technical problems discovered during driver training back in September, and after their latest two-week inspection, things didn’t change. In fact, more problems popped up. 

In addition to the malfunctioning brakes, issues with the A/C and doors opening on their own, the city said they discovered issues with the bus framing. Now, they’re deviating from the original plan to have all electric buses and the city has ordered 10 non-electric buses from an unnamed company that will take at least 18 months to get to Albuquerque.

Keller said he wants to add electric buses to the fleet at a later time. 

As for what this means for drivers in the interim, Keller said police will not be citing anyone who drives in the ART lanes but that the city will not be opening them up to traffic.

“It doesn’t make sense for us to restripe it for 12 months,” he explained.

While Mayor Keller admits the delay is frustrating, he says scrapping the project altogether is not an option and would cost about $200 million. 

In response to Tuesday’s announcement, the firm representing BYD provided the following statement:

“BYD buses and batteries are safe. This has been demonstrated on thousands of trips daily all over the world. We have worked with the City of Albuquerque from day one and dispute the Mayor’s statements regarding electric bus technology, the FTA’s process, and the Altoona testing protocol. While the Mayor and his team have hosted numerous high-profile press conferences undermining Albuquerque’s commitment to clean public transportation technology, we continue to stand by our product, and the value we bring to Albuquerque and every other forward thinking community that has invested in our technology. The City has been talking to other companies for months, clearly demonstrating their intention to move away from clean transportation technology.

BYD electric buses and technology are being used all over the world safely and with great success; it’s unfortunate Albuquerque decided on this course of action.”

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