Good morning. It’s really great to be here in Albuquerque. You know, the Obama Administration is committed to helping people save money at the gas pump. And projects like this one, the Montano Intermodal Center, is one of the ways we do it.
Projects like this are going to give people transit services that are really workable for their daily lives, that are really going to connect them from where they are to where they want to go.
Transit in Albuquerque has really been a success story. You know, I’ve reviewed some statistics before I came here. Ridership in transit in Albuquerque is more than doubled in the last decade. It’s been up more than 35 percent in just — [applause] We’ll take applause for that. Bus ridership has been up over 35 percent in just the last 5 years, and up almost 8 percent in just the past year. And I’ll be willing to bet that’s accelerating even forward as gas prices creep up to $4 and $5.
So today I’m here to announce a 6.7 million dollar grant where we’re giving the tax payers in New Mexico some of their money back to improve their quality of life and help save some money at the gas pump. When this facility is fully built out, you’re going to see a connection between the rail service, 8 new bus bays, places to park bicycles, and Wi-Fi. When you talk about the ability to leave for work a little later and get home a little sooner, having Wi-Fi, being able to do email during your commute… those are the kinds of things that make transit a workable option for people. And when transit is a workable option, it means filling up your tank maybe once every two weeks or every three weeks than every 3 days to a week. Think of the money that that is going to put in peoples’ pockets, especially now.
One of the reasons that we’ve been so successful in being able to launch expanded transit here in New Mexico is having great partners. You know, we have to go to congress for every dollar that we can put out for projects like these across the country. Congressman Heinrich has been a real leader in helping us move forward. In supporting the Recovery Act, the Recovery Act provided thousands of jobs and improved transit right in this immediate area, including all across New Mexico. Funding for my agency surged some 80 percent under the Recovery Act and we put a lot of people to work and we saved jobs in a lot of transit agencies. And what that initiative did was not just produce jobs, but it also produced jobs on projects that are going to improve the quality of life for people. That’s what President Obama is talking about when he says even in a time that we absolutely must reduce the deficit and the debt, we need to make some investments in ourselves. We need to make some investments in our kids. We need to make some investments in our future, so that when we fully pull out of the recession, we’re going to be a more prosperous New Mexico, we’re going to be a more prosperous United States. Congressman Heinrich gets that vision. He’s been a great partner in what we’ve been trying to do to improve the quality of life for people in this region.
I also want to thank Mayor Berry for inviting me out here. The Mayor came to my office in Washington D.C. and started talking up a vision for improved bus rapid transit here in Albuquerque. And I think it has, as I said, great upside potential, given the ridership growth we’ve seen, given where gas prices are heading, and given what the opportunities are for growth in this region. Bus rapid transit is a very cost-effective way of moving people more rapidly, giving them real choices that work for them, where they know the bus is going to come every 10 minutes. They buy their fare before they board the bus. They provide all kinds of connections to the Rail Runner service, the Rail Runner that’s going to pass through right here.
I was really struck by some of the statistics of how many people in this region, given the price of houses and the price of rent, work in Santa Fe and live here in Albuquerque or even as far as Belen. Think of how long that commute is in a car or a truck, and think of what the gas prices and the gas bill is to make that commute. Compare to taking a bus to rail service when you can sit back, relax, and also know you’re going to get home in time to spend time with your family, supervise homework, have dinner as a family, and really have a better quality of life. That’s what we’re trying to do when we partner with the Congressman, when we partner with the Mayor, to launch better transit here in Albuquerque. So I’m really glad to be able to tour around and see all the progress. And like I said, deliver some 7 million dollars back in New Mexico tax dollars to this region for better transit service. Thanks a lot.