ART aims to make travel easier for students as well as other citizens

An anti-Albuquerque Rapid Transit sign sits in front of Walgreens on Central Avenue in February. The city will break ground on the project in August, about the same time that UNM will begin Johnson Gym renovations. 

The University of New Mexico's Parking and Transportation Services (PATS) is working with the city of Albuquerque to make transportation for students on and around campus easier and safer, as the city looks to break ground on its new Albuquerque Rapid Transit (ART) system in a few months. 

ART spokeswoman Joanie Griffin said the project will improve the bus system on Central Avenue.

"With buses that come every seven minutes making it much more user friendly for the students at UNM," Griffin said, "there will be a stop right in front of campus. ART will run from Coors on the west side to Tramway on the east side."

PATS Director Barbara Morck said, assuming ART functions as envisioned, it is a good opportunity to improve alternative transportation services to and from the campus.

"The ART project is designed to reduce the amount of time spent riding a bus between point A and point B, in part by stopping fewer times along a route and in part by using signal prioritization," Morck said. "This reduction in time makes using public transit more time efficient and effective for passengers, which in turn increases the likelihood of use."

The ART system and the UNM shuttle service will, as they do now, work together in helping students get to the main, north and south sections of campus. 

Morck said with more students on the bus, there will be less demand and competition for parking spots on campus. 

"There are many elements in a public safety system, and the ART can be considered an integral part of this system," Morck said. "Frequent service to well-lighted and well-maintained ART stops should help improve things along the edge of the main campus. The off-bus fare collection along with other ART-associated amenities should help speed the boarding process and help passengers feel less vulnerable. Improvements along both the edges of the Central corridor will help 'clean up' the look, which will help passengers feel more comfortable in the urban environment."

Morck said she hopes ART will improve more than just time management and safety; it could also encourage students to use public transit on evenings of rest and relaxation, instead of potentially getting hurt or in trouble for drinking and driving.

ART's construction will not cause students to seek an alternative route to attend classes at UNM or any part of Central Avenue or Nob Hill, Griffin said. At no point will Central Avenue be closed; the entire time during construction one lane of Central will be open in each direction.

"We are coordinating closely with UNM to get communications out to the students, faculty, vendors and visitors to know where construction is happening," Griffin said.

Part of the ART project will be to increase safety for everyone commuting on Central Avenue, she said. There will be new state-of-the-art street lamps installed throughout the project, and security both at the stations and on the buses will be increased.

Construction of the ART system and UNM's Johnson Gym renovation will occur at the same time with the projects beginning in August, Griffin said. 

Leaders of both projects are working closely to ensure one doesn't interfere with the other.

"The ART construction process along Central will have an impact on the campus as Central is a primary point of access for the main campus. At this point in time and as the construction of the ART route along Central is completed in 2017, we do not foresee additional or ongoing adverse impact to the campus," Morck said.

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