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ART bus company working to correct issues

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

Some of the buses in Albuquerque’s electric bus fleet are already having problems, including issues with recharging. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

A senior vice president with the company contracted by the city to manufacture 20 buses for the controversial Albuquerque Rapid Transit project called the number of issues identified with the buses “befuddling,” given the high amount of scrutiny each underwent.

“This has been a challenging account,” said Macy Neshati of the BYD bus company during a meeting with Journal editors and reporters Thursday.

He said he’s upped quality control at the company’s plant in Lancaster, Calif., and encouraged the city’s inspectors onsite there to “be harder on us” to try to curb further kinks in buses coming off the line.

But city spokesman Rick DeReyes said the problems weren’t materializing at the plant.

“The issue is not what’s going on in the plant but what’s going on when they’re used,” DeReyes said. “That’s what the issue is and that’s what we’re working with BYD to resolve.”

Neshati said most of the issues are minor ones and will be able to be corrected.

Axles that were reportedly leaking oil, for example, already have been fixed.

Neshati attended an “amiable” meeting with members of Mayor Tim Keller’s administration earlier in the day Thursday to discuss the issues highlighted this month by Keller, which included the leaky axles and wheelchair restraint belts located in inconsistent locations.

“Obviously, with a new administration and a project that’s in process and not completed, there’s communication gaps and information gaps that naturally exist,” Neshati said.

“We could have certainly done a better job at being proactive in communicating with the new administration what we were doing and what our answers were to all the issues that were developing.”

The city did not comment on the meeting, but DeReyes said the mayor will provide an update on the project soon.

While there are problems with the buses that have been delivered so far, the other issue is the delay in receiving the other half.

All 20 of the buses were to be delivered by Oct. 4.

“We are victims of our own success,” Neshati said.

The company was unable to keep up with a backlog of orders, he said, but it is catching up with the addition of a 350,000-square-foot expansion to the plant brought online in October.

The buses also have not yet passed a durability test required before federal funding can be given to the city.

Neshati said he expects the test will be passed in the next five to six months.

In the meantime, the city is welcome to use the buses for free, he said.

That’s not possible, though, because a variety of other problems with the route and platforms also have been identified.

The project involves connecting roughly 10 miles of Central from Coors to Louisiana via fully electric, articulated buses, bus-only lanes and stations located in the middle of the road.