Ridership on Albuquerque's bus system continues to plunge. Through August, boardings on city buses were down 12 percent from what they were in 2016, and down 25 percent from 2012 when bus ridership in the city peaked.
The ridership free-fall comes as Mayor Richard Berry's $126 million Albuquerque Rapid Transit project down Central Avenue is about to be completed become operational.
The city has always blamed the declining riderhip on falling gasoline prices. But bus ridership in Albuquerque peaked at 13 million boardings in 2012 and has been declining ever since. Oil prices began to plunge in mid-2014, while bus ridership began falling in 2013.
It's not clear if the ridership decline so far this year is due to ART construction along Central, which began last October and which business owners say has led to large falloffs in business.
As of this August, ABQ Ride had 6,496,818 boardings. Through the same time in 2016, the system had 7,334,853 boardings. And back in 2012, the system had 8.7 million boardings through the first eight months of the year.
Albuquerque's bus system has problems, the biggest being that almost no one rides it. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only 2 percent of the working age people in the 1st Congressional District, which is basically Albuquerque, take public transportation to get to work.
And then there is the dismal percentage of operating expenses the system gets from fares. According to the Federal Transit Administration, Albuquerque has one of the lowest farebox recovery ratios in the nation at 9 percent.
That compares to Chicago at 42 percent, New York City at 41 percent, and Phoenix at 19 percent.
The system's low fares - $1 ride for adults - however, are set to disappear in the coming years. The Albuquerque City Council in 2015 passed a resolution requiring the bus system to have a farebox recovery ratio of 25 percent by 2025. The measure was sponsored by Councilor Isaac Benton.
And when those fares increase, you can bet that ridership will decrease even further.