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Expanded bus service can benefit students

The ART project will improve access to education.

Over 10 years ago I served on a committee to make recommendations to improve bus service to the South Valley. At the time bus service was minimal with infrequent bus route times and inadequate availability throughout the valley.

Although somewhat improved now, more and better service is needed but not just in the South Valley; however, the ART project will improve mass transit for everyone in Albuquerque making the whole system more efficient and encouraging more ridership and more service.

Undoubtedly the biggest benefit of the ART project will reduce travel time through the biggest mass transit corridor in Albuquerque; 42 percent of all bus ridership occurs along Central Avenue, making it obvious as a place to begin expanding transit capability.

Bus rapid transit projects can decrease travel time by up to 35 percent. The Central Avenue corridor is the vital section of Albuquerque with access to education, employment, social services and more.

When I attended the University of New Mexico I lived in the Los Padillas neighborhood of the South Valley because of lower rent, but I had to ride my bicycle three miles to the nearest bus stop, chain it to a signpost, then catch two buses to get to UNM. All in all, my travel time was well over an hour one way.

For me the biggest reason for taking the bus was to reduce the costs associated with driving a car, but that was more difficult when so much time had to be spent using the bus. Balancing the demands of work and school leave little extra time in the day.

College students are able to live further away from UNM or CNM when travel time is reduced, thereby saving money on rent because they will have more affordable options. Many students in the South Valley attend UNM and CNM even when they are still in high school but transportation is a big factor for them being able to do so.

As a teacher on the South Valley transit committee I made recommendations that would help the students.

At the time there was no bus service to Rio Grande High School, where I worked, and students then had to walk a mile to reach the bus stop.

The committee added a bus line to the school. Now, Rio Grande has a community work and skills training program for special needs students that depends on good bus service.

The ART project will improve the efficiency of their transportation needs by reducing their travel time to their work sites and community activities. Field trips, after school activities, ability to work and other activities are easier for all students with improved transit.

It is pretty clear that improved mass transit benefits low income populations the most. In a study by the National Association for State Community Service Programs, the poorest fifth of American households spent 36 cents of every dollar of their income to have a vehicle. Most likely that vehicle is used to transport parents to work and not very available to take students to schools.

The ART project improvements will increase educational options for students in the South Valley and throughout the city. We need to go even further in supporting the use of mass transit by the youth. Bus passes are free for UNM and CNM students; this needs to be expanded to students in all grade levels.

The Querencia Institute is a grant-funded organization that provides an after school and summer program in sustainability education for high school students.


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