Editorial: Best fiesta commute? Let the pros drive - Albuquerque Journal

Editorial: Best fiesta commute? Let the pros drive

Two things happen in Albuquerque every October: The balloon fiesta delivers fantasy. And the traffic to and from it delivers frustration.

Organizers have put lessons learned into practice to try to minimize traffic congestion for this year’s golden anniversary. The 50th Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta kicks off at 5:45 a.m. Saturday with a “Top Secret” aerial show, followed by mass ascension at 7 a.m. There’s a lot of new fun planned to go with the old favorites, including the largest number of special shapes ever, world records in the number of remote-controlled balloons and the number of balloons in a glow. You just have to get to the field.

And the best option? More than 200 park-and-ride buses, up from 150 last year, will provide around 19,000 fiesta-goers a convenient option to every morning mass ascension and evening balloon glow. (There are no park-and-ride services on the Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday during the event.) Bigger boarding stations will be at Cottonwood Mall, Hoffmantown Church and Coronado Center. Organizers recommend showing up by 4 a.m. to catch the first wave of buses at 4:30 a.m.; the second wave leaves at 5:30 a.m. Park-and-ride combo tickets include admission to Balloon Fiesta Park and run from free for children 5 and younger up to $25 for adults. They must be purchased in advance at balloonfiesta.com.

Basic admission runs $15 for everyone age 12 and up.

The fiesta has also expanded its free bicycle valet service to up to 1,000 bicycles, and ride share services will have a drop-off/pick-up site just west of Balloon Museum Drive.

For those who must drive, there are more than 12,000 parking spots ($20, cash only). Organizers say try to arrive when gates open at 4:30 a.m. Money will be taken by parking attendants at each lot rather than on the road in a bid to help keep things moving, and a new exit ramp from the parking lot onto Interstate 25 should help shorten the wait to leave.

The balloon fiesta is our city and state’s signature event and a little planning can make it a lot more fun. More information is at balloonfiesta.com/Know-Before-You-Go, in the Journal’s Balloon Fiesta special section on abqjournal.com beginning Friday, and in print in your Saturday Journal.

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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