After years of planning and listening to the needs of its residents, the city of Albuquerque has public transportation down to a streamlined science. Locals and visitors can get from one end of the city to the other on a variety of transportation options without having to deal with traffic or fight for parking spaces.
Commuters from outlying areas benefit as well. Cathy Garber, a communications representative at PNM Resources, an energy holding company located downtown, lives north of the city in Placitas and uses Albuquerque’s Rail Runner train service about four times a week. “I drive to the stop in Bernalillo, which is about eight miles from my home,” Garber says. “Right now there are only two stops between Bernalillo and downtown and it takes me about 20 minutes, compared to the 30 miles each way I’d have to manage in my car. It’s a significant timesaver, especially considering the fact that I’m coming and going at rush hour.”
But the benefits for Garber go beyond time and effort. “The greater benefit to me is the stress reduction of not having to deal with traffic and other drivers,” she says, “I work fulltime and have a 6-year-old child. Catching the Rail Runner allows me time to read or listen to my iPod, and I wouldn’t get a chance to do that otherwise. It’s a huge gift to have that time twice a day.”
Garber walks the four blocks to her office from the downtown stop, but others can catch the D-Ride, a free bus service that travels a downtown loop to some of Albuquerque’s most popular destinations including Civic Plaza, City Hall, metro and federal courts and the convention center. The shuttles run every seven minutes from 6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and are covered in graphics showing off the area’s landmarks.
Garber also uses the Rapid Ride, a fleet of 60-foot buses with diesel electric hybrid engines that runs on two lines. The Red Line is the Central Avenue route which runs seven days a week, and the Blue Line is the West Side/University of New Mexico route, which runs Monday through Saturday.
“Downtown Albuquerque is a small town/big city kind of place,” Garber says. “It has lots of restaurants and a big movie theater. The Rapid Ride is a great bus system that helps me get to doctor appointments or meet friends. Best of all, if you ride the train, the bus is free.”
Red Line Rapid Ride users can also take advantage of the high-speed wireless Internet access, and the same convenience is in the works for the Blue Line. All vehicles have a selection of children’s books on board as well as bicycle mounts on the front bumpers.
“They really make it convenient and I can’t imagine not using it,” Garber says. “I grew up in Los Angeles and, to me, having access to the rapid transit is a huge advantage.”
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