Making ART Work Safely

by Aaron Cowan

Anyone who drives up or down central is likely to witness cars making illegal U-turns across the ART lanes, or see pedestrians jaywalking at will.  Proposals to issue $80 tickets to these offenders are impractical and hardly enforced.  They would require a permanent police presence, and I think we all know that our police officers have more important law enforcement concerns than issuing jaywalking tickets.

What is needed is physical, flexible barriers to deter drivers and pedestrians from crossing.  The “Stay In Your Lane” slogan adopted by ART planners has proven to be unrealistic, and wishful thinking, as a dozen accidents have shown.  A stripe of paint will not be enough, in many cases, to encourage our frustrated Central Avenue drivers to do the right thing. 

Flexible plastic lane delineators, also known as flexipoles, are standardly used in many traffic control situations.  They can be permanently fastened into the concrete around bus stops in order to discourage vehicles from attempting to cross into the ART lanes.  A cable run between these poles could also deter pedestrians from crossing in undesignated areas.

I am proposing that this council engage in a pilot program to install these barriers in some of the areas where accidents or jaywalking are known to occur, as in the University area.  The cost of flexipoles is relatively low, compared to the $130 million that has been spent on ART already.  They are even cheap compared to the cost of accidents, and on-going liability exposure that the City has already taken on by implementing this program.  Especially for those of you on the council who voted in favor of ART, you have a responsibility to make sure that this system is operated in as safe a manner as possible.  Implementing an intervention program such as this shows that you do care about the safety of Albuquerque drivers and pedestrians affected by the ART system.

I believe that if this intervention is not adopted we will continue to see accidents, especially as streets become congested with out of town drivers for events like our Balloon Fiesta. 

We are probably only talking about $5,000-10,000 to implement a pilot program that will test this approach.  This is less expensive than the $13,000 of advertising that the ART program expended after the fact to try to “educate” drivers about not crossing lanes. 

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