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ART to get new, red paint job to denote lane

Eduwiges Robles waits for a connecting bus after getting off an ART bus in Nob Hill in March. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Love it or hate it, Albuquerque Rapid Transit may soon have everybody seeing red.

The city plans to begin using red paint to color the bus system’s designated lane near the University of New Mexico, an attempt to call attention to an area where buses travel east and west in the same lane.

Though pedestrians are only supposed to cross the ART route in designated areas, bus drivers have reported many jaywalking across the bus-only lane in the middle of Central, Albuquerque Chief Operating Officer Lawrence Rael said. That is particularly problematic if they do not realize the bus can be coming toward them from their left or right.

The red paint is supposed to help draw that distinction.

“What we’re trying to do is design it as a very different color that brings people attention that this is not a general-purpose lane. The markings on the asphalt will give people a sense you have to look both ways,” said Rael, adding that the city will also use signs and an informational campaign to educate the public about the red lane’s significance.

Rael said the painting should begin soon and will be paid for with Federal Transportation Administration grant money that was left over when the city purchased diesel ART buses instead of the higher-cost electric vehicles originally planned for the route.

ART runs along Central between Unser and Tramway, and much of the route features bus-only lanes in the middle of the road. The $133 million project began service late last year after years of planning, controversy and hiccups.

The city temporarily halted ART service in late March, part of an overall reduction in public transportation service during the coronavirus pandemic. ART should resume in June, though the city has used the hiatus to make some safety upgrades. That includes installing “pinned curbs” – short, narrow concrete barriers – along portions of the route where drivers had been making illegal left-hand turns across the bus lanes.

Rael said the city is considering other work, including painting the ART lanes red in the west Downtown area.

“When we first opened up ART, we all said this was going to be a work in progress,” Rael said.

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