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Monday, February 09, 2009

Michael Cadigan: Albuquerque’s Mass Transit Future is Fast, Convenient and Efficient


This is a guest blog by Albuquerque City Councilor Michael Cadigan, who has announced his candidacy for Albuquerque mayor.

Albuquerque must make mass transit faster, more convenient and cheaper than driving a car. This is the most effective way to have a positive impact on climate change and traffic congestion. I have never been a fan of the Mayor’s proposal to spend $224 million on a downtown modern streetcar. The route suggested by the Mayor (according to www.cabq.gov) goes from Nob Hill to Rio Grande along Central and would cover only about 4.5 miles. That’s about $49 million per mile. (The City’s website claims it is $28 million per mile, but that math doesn’t add up.) I understand the arguments about improving the vibrancy and property values along Central, but I just don’t think those benefits justify this price tag to serve a very small segment of our transportation grid.

I believe an expanded, vastly improved Rapid Bus system is a better option. Like many cities around the globe we could have a Rapid Bus system that acts, and even looks like a train except for rubber wheels. The fact is that for a lot (lot, lot, lot) less than $240 million, the City could have the finest Rapid Bus Transit system in the United States. For that kind of money, we could bring Rapid Bus service to streets like Unser, Second, San Mateo, Louisiana, Wyoming, Eubank, Montgomery/Montano and Menaul, connecting the places where people live to places where people work play and learn.

As a regular rider of the Coors Blvd. Blue Line, I know that our current Rapid Ride system is pretty good and well used, especially among UNM and CNM students, faculty and staff. But with a modest investment and a little political will, it could realize its potential to provide a light rail type experience at a tiny fraction of the cost.

Right now, Albuquerque’s Rapid Ride is really just jazzed up regular bus service with extra-long bendy vehicles. Without signal priority, they get stuck in traffic just like the cars. Real Rapid Bus systems act like trains. They do not stop at traffic lights because they use signal priority technology that anticipates the arrival of a Rapid Bus, estimates the traffic on cross streets and adjusts the traffic light timing to allow the Rapid Bus to buzz right through the intersection. Like a train, the Rapid Bus stops only at bus stops which are spaced about a mile apart. The bus stops have reader boards that tell you when the next bus is coming. Albuquerque has the reader boards now, but they are often not operational, and in my experience, not accurate. In many cities, Rapid Bus has dedicated lanes, so the Bus can zip past cars caught in traffic, again, like a train.

In new Albuquerque master planned developments, e.g. Mesa del Sol, Volcano Heights, the city will require that dedicated lanes be provided. But in already built neighborhoods, we can achieve much the same result at a fraction of the cost by building “queue jumpers.” These are dedicated bus ways that extend just a few hundred feet from intersections, allowing busses to bypass traffic stopped at the light. The City Council approved $5 million for queue jumpers on Coors several years ago, but at the Mayor’s request, the money was not spent and was moved to other projects.

The goal is to make mass faster, more convenient and cheaper than driving a car. Rapid Bus, like a train, accomplishes this goal. Nothing will sell people on mass transit like sitting in traffic through several light changes and watching a Rapid Bus full of happy passengers, cruising the internet, reading the paper, and getting to work on time. For more information on Rapid Bus see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bus_rapid_transit.

This is a guest blog by Michael Cadigan, who is an Albuquerque City Councilor representing District 5. He is a candidate for Mayor of Albuquerque. His website is www.cadiganformayor.com.

If you'd like to meet Michael Cadigan and learn more about his ideas for Albuquerque's future, you can do so at a Candidate Meet and Greet on Tuesday, February 10, 2008, from 6:00 to 7:30 PM at the home of Don Pizzolato, 2904 San Rafael Ave SE, in Albuquerque. Call Shaun 620-8086 for directions.

If you'd like to submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link on the upper left-hand corner of the page.

February 9, 2009 at 09:58 AM in 2009 Albuquerque Mayoral Race, Guest Blogger, Local Politics, Transportation | Permalink


It was great to hear Councilor Cadigan at the last DFNM Meetup. He was impressive in his grasp of issues and his vision of Albuquerque's future.

Posted by: Progressive Dem | Feb 9, 2009 12:22:34 PM

Cadigan's on the wrong side of the issue on funding for the youth center Warehouse 508:


In hard economic times we need this project even more than we did in better times. Would it be better to leave young people with no good place to meet and create so they get into trouble with the law? Which is cheaper?

Learn more here about Warehouse 508 and make your views known to the city council:


Posted by: tiptimetoo | Feb 9, 2009 2:18:16 PM

Thanks Mr Cadigan. This is a very complex issue technically and economically and I think you have been able to sift through all the competing ideas and separate the essence from the nonsense. We always have to remember that the purpose of increasing transit ridership isn't just convenience and making the city "world class" or increasing property values - those are side benefits. The important reasons are saving lives, congestion relief, and carbon emissions reductions, so every policy has to hinge on how well it achieves those main goals.

Posted by: Ian Ford | Feb 9, 2009 10:18:56 PM

I'm excited about a lot of what COuncilor Cadigan has done. I think he's on the worng track being against rail for our city, starting in our city's core. The long term costs of rail significantly decrease when you have to start replacing those rubber tire rapid ride buses.

COuncilor, I respectfully ask you to reconsider your stance on this issue!

Posted by: Ray | Feb 12, 2009 12:23:05 PM

People are tired of Nob Hill getting all the transportation improvements. Vast areas of city have horrible transporation options, to say the least. Let's address the problem on a citywide basis, not just to please the developers in the UNM and downtown areas. We are dying out here in the NE Heights for instance.

Posted by: iguana22 | Feb 12, 2009 2:55:40 PM