Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal
Six days in, and three Albuquerque Rapid Transit buses have been involved in crashes along the Central Avenue.
City officials say two of the buses are out of service while being repaired, with the third scratched up but able to continue on the route.
The most recent crash occurred on Thursday afternoon, after a driver heading east merged into the ART bus lane – thinking it was a left-hand turn lane – east of Nob Hill on Central near Monroe, said Alicia Manzano, a city spokeswoman.
“The driver of the car needed to be turning left, and he told officers he thought he needed to be one more lane over,” she said. “He turned into the ART bus.”
Manzano said no one was seriously injured.
The door of the bus appeared to be smashed, and the car’s left side appeared to have a lot of damage. Its air bag had deployed.
The crash comes a day after two similar crashes on each end of the route.
Manzano said that first, on Wednesday afternoon, a truck took a left turn against a red arrow and into the bus on West Central, near 52nd. The driver of the truck was taken to a hospital to be checked out, but no serious injuries were reported.
Manzano said the second incident occurred on Central near Louisiana when a driver sideswiped an ART bus as the driver tried to turn left. That bus was not seriously damaged, and the bus driver was able to drive away and continue the route.
Manzano said that there are 20 buses and that the two involved in the more serious crashes are out of service while being repaired.
“We do have reserve buses to bring out. We need 16 to operate in the corridor,” she said. “We want to continue to warn drivers the buses are in the lanes now. Take extra caution when making left-hand turns, make sure you’re looking.”
Manzano said she didn’t know how much the bus repairs will cost.
She said that, right now, officers are issuing warnings to drivers who cross the bus lanes but will start writing tickets in January, coinciding with passengers having to pay to ride the bus. The city has said drivers can be fined up to $80 for parking in the ART lanes and $160 for crossing or making illegal left turns across the lanes.
“It’s very important that, if you had a red arrow, you cannot turn left because an ART bus is likely going through in that moment,” Manzano said. “We’re trying to encourage folks to be alert and be ready to stop and be patient, but we do know it’s going to take some time for folks to get used to the new driving pattern. We’re just hopeful that we won’t see any more accidents. It’s been challenging.”