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ABQ bus ridership craters; down 52 percent since 2012

- Ridership down 52 percent since 2012, and 28 percent from 2019.

- 4.2 million fewer boardings than in 2012.

- Free ART rides didn't help. One of worst Decembers in system's history.

- Worst March ever as schedule cutbacks and economic shutdown crater ridership.

Bus ridership in Albuquerque has fallen off a cliff. For the first three months of this year, boardings on the city's fixed-route buses has fallen by 28.3 percent over the same period in 2019, and a staggering 52 percent over the same time in 2012 when bus ridership here peaked.

Put another way, boardings for the first three months of 2020 are off by 616,000 over last year, and by 1.7 million over 2012.

And the coronavirus and the economic shutdown aren't the only reasons why. Bus ridership here has been falling steadily since 2012, according to ridership figures from the Federal Transit Administration. Total bus boardings in 2019—before the virus hit—were down 8.5 percent over the previous year, and 32.3 percent from the 2012 peak. It means that in 2019 there were 4.2 million fewer boardings than in 2012.

The $136 million ART project down Central Avenue hasn't helped draw riders to the system. Remember all those free rides the city offered on the ART route in November and December, and remember how they said all those ART buses were full? Well, the buses weren't full. Bus boardings for December 2019—when people were supposedly packing the ART buses, and again, before the virus—totaled 521,423, the lowest December passenger count since 2004. Ridership did not rebound in January either. Total boardings for January were 548,797. Compare that to January of 2012 when there were 1,051,721 boardings on city buses.

Ridership basically fell off the cliff this March as the economic shutdown and limited bus schedules took effect. Boardings for March totaled 445,912, down from 757,396 in March 2019. In fact, the anemic March boarding totals are the lowest since at least 2002.

Here's the math behind some of these figures:

First Three months of 2020 vs 2019 and 2012

Total boardings 2020: 1,556,067

Total boardings 2019: 2,172,417

Total boardings 2012: 3,231,714

Difference 2019 vs 2020: -616,350; -28.3 percent

Difference 2020 vs 2012: -1,657,647; -51.8 percent

Boardings for full year, 2019, 2018 and 2012

2019: 8,792,600.

2018: 9,613,883. Difference 2019 and 2018: -821,283; -8.5 percent

2012: 13,003,221. Difference 2019 and 2012: -4,210,621; -32.3 percent

And remember that while bus ridership has been dropping, the city transit system's budget has been increasing. In 2013, the system had 12,959,144 boardings and an operating budget of $43.2 million. In 2018, the system had 9,613,883 boardings and a budget of $52.2 million.

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