August 5, 2016

Albuquerque: Stop 4 for the Millennial Trains Project


Happening Now: Groundbreaking Imminent for the ART

Just two weeks ago, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) gave Albuquerque the green light to move ahead with its Albuquerque Rapid Transit, or ART, project which will be the first all-electric bus rapid transit system in America. Construction was originally slated to begin in May, but has been postponed due to multiple preliminary and permanent injunctions sought by ART opponents. This ART Mythbuster document was published by the City last week; the questions are illustrative of the objections to the project.

Construction of the 15-mile BRT system is expected to cost $119 million; half of which the federal government has already pledged through a Small Starts grant. ART will run along Central Avenue – Historic Route 66 – and the projected benefits are impressive: $2.9 billion in economic development; 9,600 new jobs; 17,400 new residents; 10 million riders per year; $1 billion in collective household savings due to transit use.


Property Values Increase Before a Shovel Hits the Ground.

The City continues to defend its investment in the ART, recently lifting up the success of Cleveland’s HealthLine. Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals sponsored a 10-mile BRT line which has generated $6.3 billion in economic development since 2008. Since the ART project was announced last year, the Albuquerque’s Planning Department has seen a 12 percent increase in property value within 5/8 of a mile along the ART corridor. Mayor Richard J. Berry said, “This growth spike correlates to what other cities have experienced when announcing bus rapid transit systems. Economic Development studies have shown that people choose to live, work, and spend money in areas more easily accessible by public transportation systems.”


But, Who Will Benefit from the Government’s Investment and Rising Property Values?

Neighborhoods within the ART corridor have high minority and low-income populations compared to state and county averages. The city stated that these residents will not experience adverse impacts due to the ART project and will instead benefit from improved access to jobs, schools, healthcare and other services. Research from the University of New Mexico’s Bureau of Economic Research paints a slightly different picture, identifying “less considered ART impacts on low income households”. Raphael Pacheco notes, “Residents who currently live along or very near the proposed route may not be able to readily afford new higher rent and mortgage prices due to the improved transportation options. Coupled with the potential new demand from people who do not currently live in Albuquerque, low income families may be driven out of their current residences.”

Join me as I explore Albuquerque today by following @RachelReillyC and @MakeRoomUSA on Twitter and Instagram. I will be visiting the site where ART will soon break ground, meeting with residents at the The Sundowner and check out the brand new Imperial Building downtown.

The Sundowner

Located on Central Avenue between ART’s future San Mateo and Louisiana stations, The Sundowner provides 71 affordable homes for Albuquerque’s most vulnerable residents. New Life Homes redeveloped the Sundowner Motel – home to Microsoft visionaries Bill Gates and Paul Allen in the mid-1970s – into a beautiful LEED platinum that provides extremely low-income veterans, the disabled, and homeless residents with a place to live, complete with computer training center and community space. Only 15 percent of New Life Home residents own a car, so affordable access to public transit is critical. While I am there I am interested to hear what they think of their current bus system, and how they use public transit to complete every day necessities.

Imperial Building

Residents started moving into the Imperial Building last week, and the Silver Street Market is scheduled to open any day now. Viewed as a catalyst for revitalization, the Imperial Building is located in the heart of Albuquerque’s transit system, providing affordable homes and the first grocery store to operate downtown in decades. Chris Baca, CEO of the developer Yes Housing, has stated his support for ART, which will pass by the Imperial Building and its sister property Casitas de Colores.


Follow Along With Me

I am headed to Los Angeles next, so come back to Housing Horizons on August 7 to read about my visit.

You can also keep up with my trip on Instagram and Twitter at @RachelReillyC, @MakeRoomUSA and @MillenialTrain.

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