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Thursday, November 27, 2014

University-area transit proposal in the works

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By William Aranda / New Mexico Daily Lobo

From left, Eric Waite, David Pennington and Janey Flores talk after the UNM/CNM/Sunport Transit Study meeting Tuesday afternoon. The meeting was held to discuss a possible new transit system near UNM and CNM.

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@JamillahSW

Officials discuss yet again a plan for a north-south Bus Rapid Transit route through UNM, Central New Mexico Community College and the Sunport corridor Tuesday.

The Mid-Region Council of Governments (MRCOG) hosted its fifth series of public meetings titled “Draft Locally Preferred Alternative” on Tuesday at the Student Union Building. Officials discussed the UNM/CNM/Sunport Transit Study, a proposal to develop a bus route on Yale or University boulevards. The route could extend from Menaul to the Sunport, according to the study.

In 2010, the MRCOG conducted a study to explore the transportation needs of the UNM and CNM communities. The organization found that there is limited bus access traveling north-south compared to the east-west bus services along Central Avenue and Lomas Boulevard.

Officials talked about the next steps for the project and possible features that could be added to the bus system.

MRCOG Project Manager Tony Sylvester said the study aims to build features such as bus-only lanes, stations with ticket machines and accurate arrival information. Creating new “park and ride” services would also help support the route, Sylvester said.

Sylvester said the project’s operations estimated cost at least $3 million per year, but is not sure how long it could take for the project to be completed.

Sylvester said the MRCOG has interacted with college students through Facebook, surveys and focus groups. He said the meeting allowed people to voice their concerns and offer suggestions regarding the study.

“We identified a lot of concerns,” Sylvester said. “I think one of the main things that I heard from this meeting is a concept of this route, the interest in advancing it into the next stages of project development and the interest on how this can best serve the individual transit needs that people have.”

During the presentation, Sylvester said no particular agency is leading the project. He said that the MRCOG has partnered with local stakeholders that have raised money for the project.

“We have a very strong stakeholder team that champion this project from the initiative,” Sylvester said. “I think until knowing the exact opportunities out here, who the transit system would serve and how much it would cost to build and operate, we couldn’t really have the different agencies to actually take ownership of this and be responsible for it themselves.”

Max Maculey, a city resident who attended the event, said he has lived in Albuquerque for more than seven years and recently donated his car to KUNM. He said he uses the city’s transit system to get around town.

During the meeting, Maculey expressed his concerns about the proposed route not reaching the Department of Veterans Affairs in town.

“The whole purpose of me being here is trying to see what progress is being made to take more cars off the road, and this sort of thing sounds like it’s keeping cars on the road in terms of alternatives to busses,” Maculey said.

The study to identify a Bus Rapid Transit route began in June 2012, Sylvester said. He said a final recommendation is expected by the fall.

The series of public meetings will continue throughout the month of September, Sylvester said. He said the bus route will aid the city’s economic development.

“It’s time to move forward and answer these key questions for development,” he said.