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ART already damaging businesses

As restaurant and business owners in Albuquerque for over 45 years we would like to state the reasons we oppose Albuquerque Rapid Transit.

Construction is currently cutting traffic to one lane in each direction on Central. The business at our Golden Pride on West Central is down as much as 30 percent, but averages 15 percent to 20 percent a day due to the bottleneck. As a result, employees that have quit are not being replaced.

Even the business at our Frontier Restaurant is down due to the destruction of Route 66 to the east and west. As a result, we have had to shorten employees’ hours.

As bad as the loss of business due to construction is, what concerns us the most is the permanent, long-term damage ART will cause.

The ART project will permanently reduce Central to one lane through Nob Hill as well as west of University to I-25. This will negatively affect accessibility to the businesses along Central.

People do not have time to sit in traffic. The inconvenience will cause them to take their business elsewhere. Two lanes of traffic east and west are necessary for businesses to survive and grow on Central.

The elimination of two lanes will permanently devastate the businesses on Central.

What has happened to Mayor Richard Berry’s philosophy of supporting small businesses when so many small businesses are being hurt?

The city has not been honest with the citizens of Albuquerque about the long-term consequences of ART. As early as February 2014 the city knew it did not need a center-median bus line to qualify for federal funding. The city knew it could still apply for the “Small Starts” grant with a bus going in traffic and picking up passengers along the curb.

The city knew destroying the medians-including the trees was not necessary. The city also knew but did not point out to the citizens that the Route 66 bus will continue to operate in the one lane in each direction that is left for vehicles on Central. This will only add to the congestion.

The 99 spaces at Expo New Mexico the city is “giving” businesses to replace the lost parking spaces as a result of ART will be of little help to us.

Many customers drop in for a fast breakfast on their way to work or a quick lunch. They do not have time to park at Expo and ride the bus both ways.

The city is less than honest to suggest otherwise.

From the very beginning the city misstated the need for ART. In its request for federal funding, the city told the Federal Transit Administration that the Route 66 and Rapid Ride buses that currently operate on Central are at 80 percent capacity. We know this is absolutely not true.

We see the buses every day and the majority of the time they are at maybe 20 percent capacity. Often there are only two to three passengers on board.

The exception is on weekday mornings when students ride the bus to UNM.

Most dishonest of all is the fact that the city rushed to sign the contract to allow the destruction of Historic Route 66 to begin before the federal government had committed money to the project. The city assured the citizens the federal government will “give” the city $80 million and the Albuquerque taxpayers will only pay $40 million for the project. As we all know neither of these statements is true.

The city should never have allowed the destruction of Route 66 to begin.

The city also stated to the FTA that there was no opposition from the voters. However, in November 76 percent of Albuquerque voters demanded the right to vote on ART. Still, the city refuses to listen to its citizens who want the poorly-designed plans changed.

Don’t we still live in a democracy in Albuquerque?