Mass Transit Fail: Albuquerque’s $133 Million Bus System ‘on a Road to Nowhere’

FILE - In this June 21, 2016, file photo, cars make their way along historic Route 66 in downtown Albuquerque, N.M. A new U.S. Senate proposal would designate Route 66, the Mother Road that connected Chicago to Los Angeles and was once an economic driver for small towns across the …
AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan, File

The city of Albuquerque, New Mexico, spent $133 million on a state-of-the-art electric bus system only to see it go bust, according to a report released Sunday.

City leaders initially proposed the Albuquerque Rapid Transit system to revamp a former section of Route 66 and position itself as a leader in eco-friendly mass transit.

The problem is, the project never materialized. City workers tore down areas of the road to build designated bus lanes, but there were no buses to ride in those lanes, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The system was supposed to bolster Albuquerque’s existing bus network with 20 buses by fall 2017, but Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller shelved the project a month after the rapid transit system went live.

Keller said the buses were “a bit of a lemon,” with many of them leaking fluids, having axle problems, structural cracks, and unable to hold enough of a charge to function. Because of the problems, he sent those buses back to their China-based manufacturer Build Your Dreams in March 2018.

Since the project was shelved, the buses are sitting out of commission and the stations for the rapid transit system sit unused, inviting vandals to destroy the newly built ticket stations.

The designated bus lanes have also posed problems for traffic because cars cannot travel in designated bike lanes.

“It’s a nightmare with nothing to show for it,” says Jonathan Hartshorn, a librarian at the University of New Mexico.

Even business owners have said the unused designated bus lanes have posed a problem for business.

“I don’t know anyone who’s for it,” said a local restaurant owner, adding that business had plummeted by nearly 40 percent since Central Avenue was constricted to make way for ART stations and the dedicated bus lane. “Who would be for a dud?”

Other cities have had similar problems with electric buses. The same manufacturer, Build Your Dreams, approached Los Angeles city officials with a similar proposal for electric buses.

But a 2008 investigation by the Los Angeles Times found that the buses had a host of mechanical problems, including the problem of the buses being unable to hold a charge.

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