The city wants to take advantage of the 20 empty ART stations and their adjoining bus lanes, but Mayor Tim Keller’s proposed plans don’t involve driving.

The city announced on Wednesday that it wants to make use of the lanes because it could be another 18 months before the 20 new diesel-fueled ART buses from company New Flyer are running full service along Central Avenue.

People have their own ideas of what the lanes should be used for in the interim.

“If not for the buses, just open it up to all traffic,” Dana Hart of Albuquerque said.

“At least to the buses if not the cars, too,” Megan Zecker of Albuquerque added.

However, Mayor Tim Keller maintains that even while there’s no movement in the ART lanes, it’s still illegal to drive in them by crossing the double white lines and rumble strips.

Instead, he announced he wants to open the tens of millions of dollars of infrastructure to local businesses, artists and anyone who wants to apply for a temporary permit for an event or to locate a pop-up business at one of the stops.

“Marathons, 5 or 10K runs, for getting music and bands on the platforms, maybe to pop up events for businesses and even art shows, things like that,” ABQ Ride Public Information Officer Rick De Reyes said.

“I really like that idea of small business pop-up shops,” Abigayle Goldstein of Albuquerque said.

The Department of Municipal Development is still working out the permitting process, including the cost and how the city might redirect traffic for these proposed events and pop-ups. 

“They’re trying to find a way to be able to block off the street in such a way that some cars can run on Central or that there will be detours,” De Reyes explained.

The city is hoping to have events and pop-ups by springtime.

It’s also looking at issuing temporary permits to businesses along Central so they can load and unload merchandise from the ART lanes.

ABQ Ride adds that each of the incoming New Flyer buses has a base price of about $870,000. That’s about half a million less than each BYD bus. The city is suing BYD over the problems with its electric buses.