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I’m a Northwest Native and I’ve lived in Washington state my whole life. I often visit warmer, drier climates for business or leisure purposes and I’ve seen how many hot locales deal with an abundance of strong sunlight in their commercial business districts. Tucson is a very hot place, but it still maintains a reasonably walkable and surprisingly pedestrian-friendly CBD. Unfortunately, Albuquerque has taken the most pedestrian repellent aspects of the Southwest/Santa Fe architectural style and built a downtown area that is bland and uninviting for pedestrians. The landscape of downtown ABQ is dominated by blank adobe walls, a bleached out color palette and heat reflective window coverings.

The famous Route 66, “The Main Street of America”, cuts through central Albuquerque. Before the interstate system was built, businesses along Route 66 were very prosperous, but the interstate system has left most of the old Route 66 businesses in decline. There are some signs of urban restoration in downtown Albuquerque: some new apartments near the Alvarado Transportation Center, a circa-1965 office building being rehabilitated, a few other residential projects underway. But the downtown area is mostly governmental office buildings and a few restaurants serving lunch to office workers. After 5pm, downtown Albuquerque is virtually abandoned by all but the street people and the unfortunate.

Despite the problems with the central business district, Albuquerque’s transit system, ABQ Ride, is surprisingly good. ABQ Ride features both gridded routes and pulse routes centered on the Alvarado Transportation Center in downtown ABQ. Amtrak, Greyhound and the New Mexico Rail Runner are also located at the Alvarado TC, so intermodal connections are easy; but the neighborhood adjacent to the TC is rather gritty and I was panhandled constantly at the TC and as I walked to/from the TC. The major transit destination outside of downtown ABQ is the University of New Mexico which is served by 3 Rapid Ride lines (Blue, Red and Green). Rapid Ride buses connect UNM with downtown ABQ every 8 minutes. Because of the history of Route 66, most of the prominent destinations in ABQ are laid out in a straight line and the Rapid Ride lines will quickly transport you to your destination. ABQ Ride is also very affordable for the local citizens: single rides cost $1, an all-day pass costs $2, the senior fare is 35c.

Bus service to the airport is also good unless you have an early or late flight. Route 50 runs on 30 minute headways from 7am-8pm and takes about 20-25 minutes for the trip between the airport and the Alvarado TC. Route 50 also serves the University area. There is an express route (250) that connects the airport with New Mexico Rail Runner trains to Santa Fe. I bought an all day pass and rode the Red and Green lines along Route 66 and finally rode Route 50 to catch my flight out of town. The Rapid Ride lines offer frequent service until about 9pm on weekdays. If you arrive late or on a weekend, you may need to rent a car. But unlike Kansas City, the Albuquerque International Sunport is located close to town and it’s one of the top passenger-friendly airports I’ve ever experienced.

6 Replies to “Transit Day: Albuquerque”

  1. Pretty good summary. I moved here 6 months ago, and while the perpetual sunshine is a pleasant change, I plan on moving back to Seattle ASAP.

    While downtown isn’t particularly walkable, Nob Hill and the neighborhoods around UNM are. But that’s really about it for walkabillity in Albuquerque. I’m working with a group doing what we can to change that, but it’s an uphill battle. Wide, fast, over-engineered boulevards and negligible transit, with a strong dose of car culture make the landscape inhospitable for pedestrians and bikes. The slaughter of both is constant, with little remorse.

    The mayor is pushing a true BRT (ART) center-running down Central, because that’s the only reasonable route that justifies the 80 million they are hoping to get from the Feds. It also happens to be one of the few routes that is already well-served. They initially proposed a N-S route to the airport, but there was little ridership to justify it, from what I gather.

    Once you get away from Central, transit gets pretty close to unusable, with commuter and once/hr lines with need to transfer, making a 10 minute car trip 2 hours via bus (or more if your watch is slow or the connection is poor).

    Though I scouted houses, schools and jobs without a car, and considered not having one here, I gave up.

    I don’t take the bus here.

    I really just ride my bike everywhere, and takes my chances peddling in a car-culture with a vastly lower value on human life.

  2. The Rail-Runner really is a gem though. My wife works half-time in Sante Fe, and it’s a wonderful way to commute. The Republican governor commissioned a study on how to shut it down, of course. Because… waste!

  3. One of the main problems here (besides the incredible level of poverty and joblessness), is the density, or lack there-of. The zoning is horrendous. So ABQ is 3 times less dense than Las Vegas. They have sprawled to close to their limits, as they are hemmed-in by reservations and mountains on all sides, and the water issues are massive. The last bastion of developers of sprawl is the West Mesa, sucking the Rio Grande dry and filling, in the short-term, county and city coffers.

    Even in commercial zones, heights are mostly limited to 26 feet. Your view of the mountains is a god given right. There are small special zones that allow you to go up to 120 feet, but the restrictions are so crazy, few developers bother to try to negotiate the maze.

    As an example, going just 10 blocks or so NW of downtown, you run into mules and farmland. And it can’t be anything else; that’s how it’s zoned. Really.

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