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City putting more buses on Central

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Riders board a Route 66 bus at Central and San Mateo on Tuesday afternoon. ABQ Ride is adding vehicles to the route. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A week after trimming public transit service due to waning demand, the city of Albuquerque is returning more buses to Central Avenue.

Officials say ABQ Ride is adding vehicles to its Route 66 route, a route one city councilor warned now may be overwhelmed given the recent reductions.

The department will have buses follow each other on the route or fill in gaps between scheduled buses, ABQ Ride spokesman Rick De Reyes said. The intent is to increase capacity now that 66 is the only service available on the Central corridor.

“Some buses might be right behind the others and some may be coming within half the time,” De Reyes said.

With COVID-19 concerns prompting the closure of many area businesses and altering daily life for most New Mexicans, total city bus ridership was down 17% in March compared with the same month last year. In response, ABQ Ride recently curtailed its operations, moving all routes to a reduced-service “Saturday” schedule and temporarily halting Albuquerque Rapid Transit.

But stopping ART has forced all Central Avenue riders on to the 66 buses.

City Councilor Isaac Benton said he worries that has resulted in crowded conditions at a time when health experts are urging people to stay 6 feet apart to limit the spread of COVID-19.

“My understanding is the Route 66 buses are running quite full, in some cases to the extent social distancing was not possible,” Benton said during Monday’s council meeting.

De Reyes said the city began this week putting more buses on Central. It is also asking riders to wear face coverings and to use the bus only as necessary via messaging on its website and social media.

“We encourage our riders to stay home if you are not traveling for work related to an essential business, or for urgent personal business like a medical appointment or to buy food for your family,” the city said on its ABQ Ride website. “We need to keep our limited capacity available for people who must travel.”

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