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Councilor supports ART on conditions

Copyright © 2016 Albuquerque Journal

Pat Davis, the only city councilor who’s never voted directly on Albuquerque Rapid Transit, said Wednesday that he will “reluctantly support” the project after securing assurances from the city that a new bus stop will be added in the International District, among other concessions.

DAVIS: Says people in his district need bus service

DAVIS: Says people in his district need bus service

Davis, a Democrat who joined the council in December, said it didn’t make sense to have the proposed buses pass by the people who need them most.

The present design has no ART stops in the mile between Louisiana and San Mateo – a fact that drew jeers in a recent public meeting on the project. The stations are closer together in the Downtown and Nob Hill areas.

“People in the International District are about one and a half times more likely to use public transit to access their job and to access basic services,” Davis said told the Journal. “We’re not willing to let poor people stand on the sidewalk … and watch people from Uptown and Nob Hill drive past them.”

Davis will use his council district’s discretionary fund for capital projects to pay for a design study, and he and the city administration are committed to finding money somewhere to pay for the $400,000 construction of the stop, he said. The location of the new stop hasn’t been selected yet, but it’ll probably be near San Pedro, Davis said.

His support comes as the City Council prepares for a critical vote Monday on whether to accept about $70 million in federal money to help pay for the $119 million project. The city says it has another $31 million in federal money already available for ART.

The remaining $18 million would come from the city. The council last year – before Davis took office – unanimously agreed to borrow about $13 million to help pay for the project, and another $5 million in city funding is available, too.

The city is preparing to start construction in May if the Federal Transit Administration and the council grant final approvals.

The rapid-transit project involves building a nine-mile network of bus stations and bus-only lanes in the middle of Central Avenue. The goal is to provide fast, reliable service along the corridor, connecting people to major employers, the university and other attractions.

But opponents turned out in force during a serious of raucous meetings this month, shouting down supporters and accusing the city of misinformation. They say the plan would worsen congestion because there would be fewer lanes for general traffic and harm businesses in an area already well-served by transit.

Davis said he believes the ART project would be good for the corridor, including the International District neighborhoods that surround the state fairgrounds.

“My biggest concerns have been that we are losing mom and pop businesses in Downtown and Nob Hill,” Davis said, “and there’s no ART or transit system to point the finger at. I do think the economic opportunity here is critical. I’m skeptical of the billion-dollar public investment number (touted by other supporters), but I do think it’ll bring some investment.”