The Works

Fast Buses for Albuquerque, Fast Trains for Jaipur

Rendering of bus rapid transit for Albuquerque (Credit: City of Albuquerque)

Our weekly “New Starts” roundup of new and newsworthy transportation projects worldwide.

Albuquerque Goes for Bus Rapid Transit
One of the longest surviving urban stretches of historic Route 66 follows Central Avenue through the heart of Albuquerque, New Mexico’s largest city. If Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry has his way, a few years hence, it would be completely transformed by ART.

The initials stand for “Albuquerque Rapid Transit,” a 10-mile-long bus rapid transit line the city intends to build along Central Avenue.

Berry touts the project both for its potential to make Central Avenue a more pleasant pedestrian environment and for its modest cost, which the city estimates to be $100 million, or $10 million a mile. “It would be the next logical step in public transportation, and it can be done for pennies on the dollar compared to light rail and trolleys,” Berry told the Albuquerque Journal.

The city envisions most of that $100 million coming from the federal government. Albuquerque City Council has already approved bonds that would cover $13 million in construction costs. The city plans to apply for two federal grants totaling $76 million. Berry is seeking City Council approval for $2 million in matching funds for a $6 million grant, while an August deadline looms for the larger $70 million grant, which would be matched by the approved bond proceeds.

According to the news story, some business owners along Central Avenue expressed skepticism that enough people would ride if the line were built, but owners of apartment buildings expressed support for the line as a potential boost to multifamily housing in the city.

Seattleites Propose Return of Streetcars With a Vengeance
Two candidates for Seattle City Council say it will cost $10 million a mile to do something no U.S. city has yet contemplated: rebuild a network of streetcars connecting the city’s neighborhoods.

The Capitol Hill Seattle Blog reports that Council candidates John Roderick and Alon Bassok have jointly proposed a 100-mile network of modern streetcar lines that would connect Seattle neighborhoods not served by Sound Transit’s light-rail system with both that system and one another.

“Sound Transit is an organization designed to move people out of Seattle at 5 p.m. and move people in at 8 a.m.,” Roderick told the blog. “It doesn’t connect neighborhoods to one another.”

Their proposed funding mechanism: a property tax assessment that they say would cost Seattle homeowners about $200 a year. They state that work could start on the 10-year-long project within two years if residents approve the property tax hike, an outcome the article calls far from certain.

Some have already expressed skepticism about the candidates’ math, noting that the soon-to-open First Hill modern streetcar line was budgeted at $67 million a mile. The candidates say that foregoing stations and streetscape improvements could cut costs significantly, but the First Hill line’s trackwork and cars alone cost $20 million a mile.

Roderick and Bassok argue that improved Seattle Metro bus service would not be enough without dedicated lanes for the buses, and at that point, Roderick says, “you’re halfway to building” a streetcar line. (Both the existing South Lake Union streetcar line and the First Hill line operate in reserved lanes.)

The proposal, however, is best characterized as a long shot, as the two candidates trail in fundraising and name recognition in their Council contests. Seattle elects at-large council members by individual seats. The city primary is in August.

Jaipur Joins Metro Club
Jaipur, the 10th-largest city in India, is popularly known as the “Pink City” because of the pink stone used in its buildings. By local law, even buildings not made of this stone must be pink in color, a symbol of hospitality. So it is only fitting that pink is the color of the city’s first metro line, whose first segment went into operation June 2nd.

The International Railway Journal reports that Vasundhara Raje, chief minister of Rajasthan state, cut the ribbon for the 9.6-km (six-mile) initial segment from Mansarova to Chandpole, which includes nine stations, eight elevated and one underground. Service will operate at 15-minute intervals from 6:45 a.m. to 9 p.m. for the first three months of operation, and off-peak fares will be charged at all times for the first six months.

A manufacturer in Bangalore built the 10 four-car trains that will provide service on the line. The Rajasthan state government picked up the entire 20.23-billion-rupee ($316 million U.S.) tab for the project.

Operator Jaipur Metro Rail Corporation has contracted with a private company to provide feeder service with a fleet of 80 taxis and 100 electric rickshaws. Each of the stations also has a parking garage; together, they hold 2,500 cars.

Work has already begun on a 2.4-km (1.5-mile) underground extension of the first line, set to open next year. A second, 23.8-km (14.9-mile) line with 20 stations is also planned at a cost of 103.9 billion rupees ($1.62 billion U.S.)

Know of a project that should be featured in this column? Tweet @MarketStEl a brief description or link using the hashtag #newstarts.

The Works is made possible with the support of the Surdna Foundation.

Next City contributor Sandy Smith is the home and real estate editor at Philadelphia magazine. Over the years, his work has appeared in Hidden City Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Inquirer and other local and regional publications. His interest in cities stretches back to his youth in Kansas City, and his career in journalism and media relations extends back that far as well.

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Tags: trainsstreetcarsbus rapid transit