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Editorial: Could deal mean ART’s bumpy ride is at an end?

What’s left to say about Albuquerque Rapid Transit?

That the city’s deal with Chinese manufacturer Build Your Dreams, which delivered a fleet of trouble-prone vehicles, may have ended a nightmarish lawsuit, but Albuquerque is months from an as-advertised bus system on Central?

That business owners along historic Route 66 should start praying the forthcoming fleet of replacement vehicles lines up with the already constructed center median stations designed for one-of-a-kind BYD buses?

That the millions in federal financing that hinged on electric buses really applies to diesel substitutes, as the city says?

The settlement between Albuquerque and BYD, reported in the June 1 Journal, marks the end of a frustrating saga that devolved into a messy, no-win situation. The city won’t get any money out of BYD, but it will also avoid paying the company the $22 million owed under the original agreement, along with anything from what could have been a crippling breach-of-contract countersuit. And while critics may advocate for going after the company, attorney Robert Desiderio explains it would be hard to demonstrate damages since the city never actually paid for the buses. And so:

• The city is out just $138,322 in legal fees instead of millions from a lengthy court battle.

• The city has that $22 million to pay for the replacement fleet from Minnesota-based New Flyer of America.

• City staff say they are confident the new diesel fleet will work with Central Avenue bus stations designed to fit BYD’s 60-foot articulated electric buses.

It’s not beyond the scope of imagination that Mayor Tim Keller’s administration, which inherited the project, might have been quick to pull the stop cord to off-load a hand-me-down problem. The same buses seem to be working fine in Indianapolis, albeit on a shorter charge that got BYD to install extra charging stations. Meanwhile, Albuquerque business owners and residents still have nothing to show for the months of ART construction pain, save for empty center median stations, and drivers ignoring all the signs and cruising down the bus-only lanes.

Given how the past year has played out, Albuquerque residents should hold on tight and hope the bumpiest part of ART’s ride is in the rear-view.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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