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ABQ RIDE Celebrates Golden Anniversary

Salutes Transition from Once-Private Bus Company to State’s Most Utilized Public Transportation

In the lifespan of a City of Albuquerque department, 50 years may not seem like a long time. But for ABQ RIDE, its first 50 have provided a lifetime of memories. The department celebrated those memories October 30, 2015 with a Golden Anniversary event at the Montaño Transit Center at 130 Montaño Rd NW.

The Cibola High School marching band began the celebration with a parade to the speakers' area, which was backed by some of ABQ RIDE's most iconic buses, including a 1927-model White bus like the one that began Albuquerque's first bus service in 1928. Albuquerque Police then presented their color guard along with a moment of silence for fallen APD Officer Daniel Webster. Vocalist Sarah Moser from The Bosque School sang the National Anthem.

"ABQ RIDE started out in 1965 with 80 drivers, 60 buses, and a mission to meet a growing city's transportation needs," said Alan Armijo, representing the office of Mayor Richard J. Berry. "50 years later, that mission continues with the Albuquerque Rapid Transit project that will enhance service along our busiest corridor and revitalize the area with more and exciting development."

Bus service in Albuquerque actually began as a private enterprise on New Year's Day, 1928. That's when a group of owners introduced several 1927-model White buses to serve the growing city. They had to drive them from Casper, Wyoming along poor roads to be able to make the Albuquerque Bus Company's promised opening day.

In 1945, Joseph B. Land and another group bought the company. They added new buses, increased service from 12 to 32 square miles and moved operations from a tiny garage at 3rd and Silver SW to a bigger facility at 601 Yale SE. In 1955, upon the death of Land, his son-in-law A.P. FitzGerald became president.

The Albuquerque Transit System, as it was officially known back then, came into being on Feb. 1, 1965. That's when FitzGerald handed over the keys of the Albuquerque Bus Co. (and Suburban Bus Lines) to City Commission Chairman Archie Westfall in a City Hall ceremony.

Dick FitzGerald, A. P. FitzGerald's son and grandson of Joseph Land, attended the ceremony. He reminisced about Transit's privately-owned years. "It was very much a real 'mom and pop' operation, even up to 1965," said FitzGerald. "There were fewer than a hundred employees at the time and Dad was on a first name basis with everybody."

50 years later, ABQ RIDE is ready to move into its next big phase of public transportation, Albuquerque Rapid Transit (ART) down Central Avenue.

"ART promises be a 21st Century system for Albuquerque's 21st Century needs," said Bruce Rizzieri, Director of ABQ RIDE.

Significant Milestones for City of Albuquerque Transit Department

  • 1965: Albuquerque Transit organizes its own Luminaria Tour for Albuquerque residents (complementing existing Chamber of Commerce tour for visitors)
  • 1976: System now called Sun Tran makes its first, major bus buy: 52 T6H-4523A's, with air conditioning
  • 1984: Ridership tops 4 million; Buses routed off Central Ave and onto Gold & Copper Avenues
  • 1989: Major site expansion of Yale Bus Facility; includes drivers' lounge and more office space
  • 1992: Sun Van ADA service transitioned from traditional Sun Van elderly & handicapped service
  • 1996: Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) filling station completed at Yale, 1st of its kind for City of Albuquerque fleets
  • 2002: Alvarado Transportation Center opens in Downtown Albuquerque
  • 2004: Uptown Transit Center opens
  • Sept., 2004: Sun Tran renamed ABQ RIDE
  • Dec., 2004: First of three Rapid Rides begins service
  • 2005: Daytona Bus Facility/Phase 1 dedicated and officially opened
  • 2007: UNM and CNM enter into a funding agreement with ABQ RIDE for use of service by students (staff & UNMH employees included in 2008)
  • 2008: Northwest Transit Center opens
  • 2010: Central and Unser Transit Center (in use since 2004) upgraded with new lots and bus island
  • Jan., 2011: Three new routes serve Southern and Unser in Rio Rancho; a joint effort with Rio Metro Regional Transit District
  • Nov., 2011: Concept announced for Albuquerque Rapid Transit down Central Ave.
  • April, 2012: Ticket vending machines introduced to Central & Unser, Uptown and Northwest
    Transit Centers
  • June, 2012: ABQ RIDE app for iPhones introduced (Android app debuts in Dec., 2013)
  • Dec. 2012: Passenger boardings top 13 million for a 12 month period for the first time in history
  • Feb., 2013: TXT2RIDE texting service introduced
  • July, 2013: Albuquerque Wall of Fame Launched
  • April, 2014: Montaño Transit Center opens
  • April, 2014: Free ridership extended to veterans in the VA health care system
  • Oct., 2015: Completion of Yale Facility Revitalization
  • Oct., 2015: ABQ RIDE Celebrates 50 Years of City-owned Transit

ABQ RIDE Image Gallery

Cibola High Marching Band.

APD Color Guard with a tribute to fallen officer.

Alan Armijo representing Mayor Richard J. Berry.

Dick FitzGerald and Director Bruce Rizzeri.

50th Celebration-Wide Shot

Shot of ceremony at Montaño Transit Center with historic buses in the background