Rapid Ride serves three routes: The 766 ("Red Line") runs along Central Avenue from Unser Boulevard to Louisiana Boulevard, then north to the Uptown Transit Center; the 790 ("Blue Line") which runs from the University of New Mexico west down Lomas Boulevard, north on Rio Grande Boulevard, west on Interstate-40, and then north on Coors Boulevard past the Cottonwood Mall to the Northwest Transit Center; and the 777 ("Green Line") runs along Central Avenue from Downtown Albuquerque to Tramway Boulevard.
Stops are about a mile apart at specially designated Rapid Ride stations rather than the normal city bus stops, which are about two blocks apart. Service varies by route. The Red and Green lines operate from 6:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. on weekdays and Saturdays with buses scheduled every 15 minutes during the week and every 20 minutes on Saturdays, with more limited service on Sundays. The Blue Line operates from 5:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. on weekdays with buses scheduled every 12 to 30 minutes depending on time of day, with more limited service on Saturdays. In the case of the Central Avenue Corridor, both the 766 and 777 lines, in part or whole, supplement the multiple-stop 66 Central route, which is the busiest route in the ABQ Ride system.
Every route within the ABQ RIDE system, with the exception of #222 and #34, connects to a Rapid Ride route, either at one of the Transit Centers, or along its route (usually either on Central Avenue or on Coors Boulevard).
Rapid Ride operates only slightly like a BRT, as the buses run in regular traffic (except for a one-mile stretch for westbound buses at the UNM campus), do not have signal priority (although the system exists, it has been disabled since 2009), and do not have pre-boarding fare payment. The buses, however, are low floor, have accessible features such as a quick deploying ramp and kneeling, and stations are spread out roughly a mile apart, except in downtown where there are 6 stations. The buses have free Wi-Fi provided by the city, but this service is no longer offered at regular bus stops. Bus schedules on the 766 Red Line, 777 Green Line, combined with the 66 Central Route are frequent and situated so that buses reach stations roughly every 7-10 minutes between Downtown and Louisiana, and every 10-15 minutes between Wyoming and Tramway and between Rio Grande and Unser.
The Rapid Ride fleet currently consists of 18 New Flyer DE60LF and 6 New Flyer DE60LFR articulated 60-foot low floor buses, which are painted in ABQ RIDE's red and gold color scheme. All Rapid Ride buses have free wireless internet access and are also equipped with Digital Recorders automated stop announcement systems and TwinVision LED destination signs. The front destination signs feature a multicolor route number display and orange route name display. The route number is displayed in red for the Rapid Ride Route 766, blue for Route 790, and in green for Route 777. The side and rear destination signs are orange-only.
Ridership on the Red Line was 1.6 million boardings for fiscal year 2007, up 28% over fiscal year 2006, and was projected to finish fiscal year 2008 with a 13% gain. Bus ridership as a whole was up 9.3% in Albuquerque in fiscal 2007. The Blue Line had over 20,000 boardings per month as of early 2008.
Rapid Ride service began on December 24, 2004, with the Route 766 line, which ran along Central Avenue from Unser to Wyoming, North to Interstate 40, then west to the Uptown Transit Center. Buses ran every 11 minutes from 6:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. on weekdays and Saturdays. On August 20, 2006, the 766 started Sunday service with 22-minute frequency from 6:43 a.m. to 6:41 p.m.
On April 17, 2006, a second Rapid Ride route, the West Side Rapid Ride (156) started service. It ran as a commuter with four (two northbound and two southbound) runs in the morning and three (two northbound and one southbound) runs in the evening on weekdays. The route ran on Coors Blvd from Cottonwood Mall to the Alamosa Community Center. This route served as a pilot project for a potential full-time route for the Albuquerque West Side, and was later replaced by a new route (mentioned below) in July 2007.
ABQ RIDE placed an order for six additional Rapid Ride buses on July 20, 2006. The six buses were once again the New Flyer DE60LF, and were delivered in February 2007. These new buses were put to use on a new West Side route (Route 790) connecting the University of New Mexico to a portion of Albuquerque's Westside, via Lomas Boulevard, Rio Grande Boulevard, Interstate 40, and Coors Boulevard to the Montano Plaza shopping center. This new route replaced the 156 route and went into service on July 7, 2007, with 15-minute frequency on weekdays and 20-minute frequency on Saturdays. With the creation of this line, ABQ Ride began to give Rapid Ride routes color designations (Red for 766, Blue for 790). On August 16, 2008, the Blue Line was extended to Cottonwood Mall and weekday frequency changed to 20 minutes. When the new Northwest Transit Center opened on September 2, 2008, all buses serving Cottonwood Mall moved there, although a stop at Cottonwood Mall on 7 Bar Loop still remains for mall commuter traffic.
For several years, ABQ RIDE operated the Red Line from 8:00pm until 1:00am on Fridays during Saturdays during the summer months. The route was called Rapid After Dark, and given its own route number, 767, even though the route did not deviate from the daytime route. The city disbanded the service in 2011 in favor of a new service, 66 Late Night. The New service utilizes the 66 route, allowing for more stops and traveling the full length of Central Ave.
On February 26, 2009, ABQ RIDE announced a third Rapid Ride route, Route 777 (the "Green Line"), which would run every 15 minutes on weekdays along Central Avenue from Downtown Albuquerque to the Four Hills area at Central Avenue and Tramway Boulevard, and help relieve overcrowding on the Rapid Ride Red Line and the Route 66 Central Avenue bus. In preparation for the new route, ABQ RIDE added six additional Rapid Ride buses to the fleet. The Rapid Ride Green Line went into service on August 15, 2009. The 766 route was adjusted from using Wyoming Boulevard to using Louisiana Boulevard to connect to the Uptown Transit Center. Frequency on the 766 was adjusted from every 11 minutes on weekdays to every 15 minutes, and the schedules are designed to overlap so that between the 766 and 777, service on Central Avenue between Louisiana and Downtown is every 7 minutes.
On an election on October 6, 2009, Albuquerque voters approved a quarter-cent transportation tax extension lasting until 2019. 36% of this tax will be allocated for ABQ RIDE, up from 20% for the past 10 years. On October 8, 2009, outgoing ABQ RIDE transit director Greg Payne indicated the possibility of a new Rapid Ride route on San Mateo Blvd.
In November 2011, ABQ RIDE announced plans for true bus rapid transit service along Central Avenue. The service differs from the Rapid Ride based on the fact that it would use a dedicated travel lane, and thus can be considered a true BRT service. Branding for this service has not been announced yet, nor have there been any announcements whether or not this service would replace the Rapid Ride Red or Green Lines.
In October 2014, The City presented to voters its final proposal for Albuquerque Rapid Transit, a true BRT system extending from Tramway Blvd. to 98th St.
The following transit connections are made at the Alvarado Transportation Center:ABQ Ride bus routes: #5, #6, #7, #8, #10, #11, #12, #13, #16, #36, #40 D-Ride, #50, #53, #54, #66, #93, #94, #97, #217, #250
ABQ Ride Rapid Ride routes: 766 Red Line and 777 Green Line
Rio Metro #504, #505A, #505B
NM Park & Ride Purple, Turquoise
Route 766 - Red Line
(From West to East)
Route 777 - Green Line
(From West to East)
Route 790 - Blue Line
(From Northwest to Southeast)
ROUTE 156 From north to south:Cottonwood Mall
Coors at Irving (Target Store)
Coors at Montano Plaza
Coors at St. Josephs
Coors at Sequoia
Coors at Fortuna
Coors at Central (transfer to Rapid Ride 766)
Alamosa Community Center
(no longer in service)