About 45 percent of UNM students ride a bike, walk or use public transportation to travel to and from school every day.
According to officials from the Mid-Region Council of Governments (MRCOG), about 74,000 people travel through the UNM and CNM area every day. Officials said the amount of travel within the area has increased traffic congestion.
At a kickoff meeting on June 25, MRCOG officials said that over the next 12-15 months, MRCOG will conduct a study to find a solution for the traffic problems around the University area.
Officials said the study will first focus on the area between Menaul Boulevard and the Albuquerque International Sunport and from I-25 to Girard Boulevard.
Special project manager at MRCOG Tony Sylvester said the main goal of the study is to identify where the problems lie and find solutions to reduce congestion.
“We know students have different transportation needs than residents, faculty and staff have different transportation needs than people going to the airport,” he said. “One of the things we’re going to try to do is identify a strategy for addressing some of these transportation needs.”
Initial results of the study found that while UNM Parking and Transportation Services transports 7,000-10,000 people per day with shuttles from off-campus parking areas and campuses to main campus, some of the routes overlap with ABQ RIDE routes.
During the meeting, Sylvester said initial findings in the study indicate a lapse in ABQ RIDE services when the buses travel north and southbound routes in the University area. He said neighborhood associations have also expressed a need for more bicycle paths and walkways.
UNM student Cecilia McKinnon said although she has access to a vehicle, she prefers to ride the bus because she enjoys the quick, convenient public transit service in the area.
“It’s free for students, which is great,” she said. “I just feel like it’s kind of unnecessary to drive most of the places that I’m going because I usually hang out around this area or Downtown.”
A partnership with ABQ RIDE, the University and CNM allows both CNM and UNM students, faculty members and staff to use ABQ RIDE buses for free, but McKinnon said she isn’t able to use public transit to get very far anywhere else in the city.
“The bus isn’t ideal in a lot of ways just because … Albuquerque’s a really big city and the bus system isn’t the most comprehensive here, so it is hard to get around other places,” she said. “But in general it works for me.”
Officials said the study will assess how roads are used in the University area and how congestion can be eliminated or reduced. They said the study will focus specifically on if and how buses, bike lanes and University shuttles can be altered to work more cohesively.
Sylvester said the study will seek input from community members through surveys and focus groups, and will hold various community meetings with stakeholders in the area to get feedback.
Stakeholders include businesses, residents and students.
MRCOG Project Manager Chris Blewett said the study is funded by about $881,000 in grants from the federal government. He said the study should result in solutions as well as more funding to implement the solutions.
“If we do a good job in coming up with a solution, it results in smarter parking policies, better transit service through this area (and) better development patterns through this area,” he said. “We think this is a golden opportunity not to solve every problem in the world or even in this part of the city, but really to take advantage of and resolve a lot of the long-standing issues.”