Sunday, July 29, 2007

BUS STORY # 43 (Immigration Status)

From a July 17, 2007, ABQ RIDE press release:

“ALBUQUERQUE-Mayor Martin Chávez and ABQ RIDE Director Greg Payne are pleased to announce that new ridership figures show a 9.3 percent increase in passenger boardings during the recently completed Fiscal Year 2007 . . .‘To put these numbers in perspective, a 9.3 percent increase equals nearly 800,000 more bus trips than the previous year.’”

By an admittedly rough calculation, I take credit for 315 of those bus trips. That, in turn, makes me personally responsible for 0.039% of the increase. That’s me with “Hi, Mom!” on my percentage sign.

The press release also identified the three most popular lines. I ride two of those: the Rapid Ride Red Line (Yes, there is now a new Rapid Ride: the Blue Line. It runs from just north of Coors and Montano way out there in the northwest clear on down to UNM where I catch another of the three most popular lines), and the Yale bus (aka the No. 50, the Airport/Downtown bus, and the Martin Luther King Blvd bus). The Rapid Ride Red ridership jumped by 28%; the Yale by 20%.

The data don’t show it, but I suspect most of the new riders are folks like me: white-collar commuters who max out the seating capacities of the pre-8:00 a.m. and the post 4:00 p.m runs. We’ve already seen a sign that the city understands the shift: the Yale bus is now often one of the larger “300s.” No more standing on this particular run.

I’ve been riding over a year now, and I’m no longer a tourist. One of the indicators of my change of status is the fact that I sometimes don’t realize I have a bus story until I’m recounting something that happened on the bus to a fellow rider at work or to my wife sometime after I get home. I’m becoming acculturated (a nine-dollar word that was worth $7.70 this time last year – a 16.8% increase in FY ‘07).

I’ve also noted a demographic shift. The blue-collar regulars are still there, but the white-collars are moving toward majority status. This is true only of the first two Lomas and Yale morning commutes; I find the afternoon commutes still maintaining a bracing heterogeneity. Of course, the demographics will shift again at the end of August when school resumes.

Whether I catch the first or second Lomas inbound, there’s now a good chance I’ll encounter someone working in the same building I do. On the Yale bus, it’s up to as many as five. I find myself having more conversations about shared work experiences and doing less reading, less watching for possibly unfolding bus stories.

We are the new immigrants, and the commuter-time buses are our new neighborhoods. And as often happens in neighborhoods where the new immigrants start moving in, some older residents move out to other neighborhoods where they feel more comfortable. (This doesn’t seem to be true of the third most popular bus, however. The Central bus, or the No. 66, remains the International District of the ABQ RIDE neighborhoods.)

You might say what we’re seeing here is the creep of gentrification. It’s a gentle creep, somewhere in the neighborhood of, say, 20 to 28 percent a year. Folks still seem to be getting their coffee from McDonald’s, but I’ve already scoped out an area on the Rapid Ride where the Albuquerque Journal has a vending machine. I think a bus-size Starbuck’s dispenser would fit in nicely.


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