The question for Albuquerque is what do we do with the now-infamous Albuquerque Rapid Transit project?
That's the $135 million ART project that is so flawed and has so many problems that it could take a year to fix.
That's the so-called, world-class, nine-mile-long bus line that was never about public transportation - that is, getting people around the city on public transit quicker and more efficiently – but was always about hoped for real estate development.
It's the project for which we might never get the $75 million from the federal government that was supposed to pay for more than half of it. As every day passes, it looks less and less likely that we will ever see that money.
So what do we do with it? Do we cut our losses and walk away from it and refuse to spend any more money, and more importantly, time, on a project that is pretty much hated and that has angered the community from the start?
ART can be fixed, but as Mayor Tim Keller said last week, crime, public safety and the police department are this city's most important issues right now. Why should we spend even another second of time on ART?
Why not re-stripe Central and return it to four lanes of traffic and use the tiny ART stations for something – anything else?
And what do we do with the people who gave us ART – R.J. Berry, Rob Perry, Michael Riordan, the NAIOP crowd and the general contractor, Bradbury Stamm Construction; the architectural firm; Dekker-Perich-Sabatini; the design and engineering firm, HDR, Inc.; and the company that is making the electric buses that don't yet meet the city's needs, BYD?
Why don't BYD's buses work properly? Why are some of the bus platforms either too short or not level? Why did we contract with BYD in the first place? Why did the city's PR people constantly lie to us by saying that ART was a “done deal” when it came to getting that federal funding?
When did Berry's people realize that the buses didn't work properly, that the stations might have been misdesigned and that the feds were balking at giving the city the $75 million? Why didn't Berry's people tell the public about all of these problems?
Is this a case of massive buffoonery and total incompetence, or something more sinister like corruption?
Well, the first thing is that everyone involved in ART should be investigated immediately and thoroughly. Keller should order the city's Inspector General and Internal Auditor to look into this mess to see how, when and why it went awry. And if there is even the slightest hint of corruption, federal law enforcement officials should be asked to come in.
Hell, maybe city councilors Ken Sanchez, Brad Winter and Don Harris will ask the IG to look at the ART mess. After all, they're the ones who have called on the IG to probe the dealings of the independent monitor in the police department's reform case.
In the meantime, though, we have to figure out what to do with with this mess.
Here's one suggestion for the ART stations:
Turn them over to panhandlers so they'll have safe places from which to solicit money from motorists. The platforms are more than six feet wide, higher than street level, and thus offer safe places – well, safer than regular medians and freeway ramps – from which panhandlers can solicit.
And here's a bonus: because the platforms are more than six feet wide, any panhandlers on them won't be violating the city's pedestrian safety ordinance, which bars people from parking themselves in medians that are less that six feet wide. That will get the ACLU off our backs and will get us praise from national media outlets like The New York Times and CNN for being progressive and welcoming to panhandlers and the homeless.
And because this would concentrate panhandlers long Central, it means cops won't have to be driving all over the city trying to enforce the pedestrian safety law. That will keep the cops free to take real calls for service.
Here's how we can turn ART into a real economic development tool.
Film a sitcom here based on ART and call it “Total Incompetence.” The actors can deliver their lines in Mandarin, and we can use the nine or 10 ART buses that we've received so far to drive tourists around the city. They'll actually be experiencing incompetence and buffoonery – and maybe even corruption - up close and personal in the actual ART buses.
What could be more fun?
But the question remains and it is huge: what do we do with ART?
Send your comments – serious, or funny, or outrageous - or post them on Facebook.
What the hell do we do with this thing?