Albuquerque’s Trolley Folly
The City of Albuquerque has put together part of its request for federal money from the new Obama Administration in 2009. One part of that request is $90 million for a magic trolley car running down Central Avenue (colloquially, and wrongly, called Albuquerque’s Main Street). Discussion about this project made it onto the local city blog, Duke City Fix. There was a strong and passionate debate given on both sides of the issue. So strong in fact that the admin decided to close the forum (which was a good idea.)
I was talking about this with my fiancee. We’re both against the idea of $90 million being spent on a trolley car that will not move a lot of people around town. We really like mass transit, but what this city really needs are more buses, not a trolley. There are a lot of poor people here in Albuquerque, and parts of town that would benefit from an increase in mass transit to the area. $90 million could buy over 1100 buses (someone on Duke City Fix figured out), and even if all of this money was not spent on buses, there could be transit hubs and bus transfer areas located throughout the city to make bus transit easier.
My fiancee emailed me the following and wanted me to post it to give her two cents about what she called “the trolley folly.” So here she is, in her own words:
I’m a nurse in Albuquerque and I’ve spent a lot of time talking with patients who want to take care of themselves, but find it almost impossible to do so on their own.
Elderly patients who can no longer drive have to schedule their doctor appointments around their children’s work schedule. Some have to beg rides from friends and neighbors. Some of the caregivers I talk with don’t have their own transportation due to the cost and have to cancel their sick relatives’ appointments sometimes because they couldn’t get a ride or the person who was going to give them a ride had something else come up. When I ask about using public transportation, the most common answer is that the bus doesn’t go near the doctor’s office. One caregiver said that her elderly grandmother would have to spend a total of six hours to get to the doctor’s office and back again using the bus. The caregiver and her children have to go with her to assist her on and off the bus. On top of that, it’s not a comfortable ride and there is a lot of waiting in the hot or cold for the bus to arrive.
Then there are the disabled citizens in our city. You may have seen some of them using their motorized chairs in the bike lanes and on the streets. What do they do when the weather is bad? They stay trapped in their homes or beg rides from family or friends. People without relatives in the city are pretty much dependent on the kindness of their neighbors and friends.
The public transportation in this city is horribly lacking. That being said, I live near enough to Nob Hill to appreciate the trolley system being built there. It would draw business to the area. However, in good conscience, I cannot ignore the basic needs of so many of our citizens who are doing their best to live independent and healthy lives. I strongly feel that the basic transportation upgrades of the city should come before a trolley system that would only support a small part of town.