Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal
The city of Albuquerque is turning to a familiar bus company in its bid to salvage a beleaguered public transportation project.
The city has ordered 10 “clean diesel” buses from New Flyer of America – a fleet of 60-foot articulated buses expected to finally bring Albuquerque Rapid Transit to life.
ART – the $135 million transit project featuring bus-only lanes and stations along Central Avenue – was supposed to launch a year ago, but vehicle issues have created delays. The city just last week returned 15 electric buses it had ordered for ART; the city contended they were faulty, though the Chinese manufacturer, BYD, has said the buses and batteries are safe.
The situation prompted the city to work with New Flyer, the company already providing buses for the Rapid Ride bus routes.
Because New Flyer was among the bidders for the ART bus contract in 2016, Transit Department spokesman Rick DeReyes said the city was able to place the current order.
The New Flyer buses have five doors – two on the left and three on the right – which means they could ultimately serve both the ART and Rapid Ride routes if necessary.
New Flyer said it had adjusted its 2019 build schedule to accommodate Albuquerque’s order, and would build them and deliver them in 2019.
The buses cost $870,000 apiece for a base model, but the price tag will likely rise as the parties finish negotiating various upgrades, DeReyes said.
The BYD models were to cost about $1.3 million each, though the city never paid because the buses never passed the federal Altoona Testing standards.
The city had planned to use electric buses for ART and a BYD spokesman has alleged city leaders are “undermining Albuquerque’s commitment to clean public transportation technology” by changing companies. But DeReyes said the New Flyer buses are the best option at this juncture, noting that they have met federal Altoona Testing requirements.
“It wasn’t a (matter) of wanting to get away from clean technology; it was how can we start the service with something that’s relatively clean as soon as possible,” he said. “That’s why we went this route.”
A New Flyer spokesman said it has recently delivered similar buses to large cities, such as Houston, Cleveland and Boston.
DeReyes said officials have been in regular contact with the Federal Transportation Administration and don’t believe the move from electric to diesel will compromise any of the $75 million the agency has provided for ART.