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ART: Worth the price? Absolutely

As a long-time developer in Albuquerque, I am frustrated by the lack of common sense being expressed by a group calling themselves Concerned Citizens against the Albuquerque Rapid Transit (ART) project.

Their main gripe is that construction will put businesses out of business.

That’s an interesting point of view – especially when you note who is the one delivering it. She is none other than Jean Bernstein, owner of Flying Star and Satellite Coffee, which is currently in Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization.

Just recently, she announced she is shuttering the Nob Hill Satellite location. The failure of her business – now totaling at least four locations – has zero due to construction.

Businesses come and go. In the case of Nob Hill businesses, the recession, poor marketing and lack of business strategy is the issue — not construction.

A good business will have no issue weathering construction. They just have to plan for it, communicate and give people a reason to come during construction.

Some of Concerned Citizens’ complaints cite slowing down traffic being bad for business.

That makes no sense. Cars zipping by at 50 mph aren’t stopping to shop or eat. They’re just getting from Point A to Point B.

And the experts have weighed in on the matter as well.

Nob Hill Main Street hired Robert Gibbs Planning Group to do a retail health analysis of the Nob Hill retail district.

The finding: “Central Avenue needs to be slowed down. The noise, nuisance and threat to the safety are a major impediment. Sidewalks are narrow and cluttered, street crossing is difficult and dangerous.”

ART will add wider sidewalks, slow traffic down, have designated turn signals and dramatically improve both walkability and safety.

Concerned Citizens also points to Houston’s fully redesigned transit system as one we should mimic. That is exactly what ART is planning to do.

The Central corridor is the spine of the system, and connects to all other 32 Rapid Ride lines. A full upgrade to the entire system is being planned, but we have to take one step at a time.

In my work around the country, I am seeing bus rapid transit systems in all medium sized cities. If Albuquerque is going to remain competitive and attract new companies and employees, mass transit is imperative.

ART will be a world-class transit project, with most of the money coming from the federal government. Yet the small vocal minority of naysayers want to say no to that money. That is the most foolish thing I’ve heard in a long time.

Bernstein and crew should be screaming from the rooftops — Yes. Yes. Yes. ART will transform our city, and help small business, not hurt it.

This group is looking at a short-term inconvenience – likely 30 to 60 days of disruption to their business – and cringing.

They should be looking out 2, 5, 10 and 25 years and how vital and strong not only their business will be – but the entire city.

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