Did the FTA force ABQ to design A.R.T. this way?
No. Albuquerque planners applied for a small starts grant in consultation with planners in Seattle and other cities in the U.S. Albuquerque applied for a small starts grant because it did not have enough "ridership" to apply for larger FTA grants. Albuquerque's small starts application could have been for a new fixed guideway system (light rail, commuter rail etc.) or an extension to the existing system. Planners believe putting the bus in the middle of Central Avenue is the only way to boost ridership so that they can apply for bigger grants in the future.
For A.R.T. to apply for the small starts program planners had to claim that the project would provide:
cost effectiveness (cost per trip);
and that there was an acceptable degree of local financial commitment including evidence of stable and dependable financing sources.
Are cars obsolete?
Advertisers noticed that the group of Americans born between the early 1980s and 2000 showed different buying patterns than previous generations. This led to the marketing term "millenials". Based on market conditions around 2009, the car industry released information that millenials were not buying cars. This led to grim prognosticating based on studies of the generation who live in big cities like New York and the San Francisco Bay area, where owning a car is an expensive hassle. Elsewhere, getting a job means buying car — otherwise you have no way to get to work. Millennials in the U.S. -- those between 21 and 38 in 2015 -- bought 4 million cars and trucks, second only to the baby boomers, according to J.D. Power's Power Information Network. Read more from Business Insider
As of 2015 millennials are buying cars in big numbers. They just had a late start. According to a study by Forbes Magazine and Elite Daily released in January 2015, 61% of millenials would admit that they can’t afford a house, so they would rather rent a house than one. 71% would rather buy than rent a car. Many millenials still live with their parents, have crushing student loan debt and are underemployed. Cars are cheaper than houses. Millenials need a car to get around "even if they’re still in their parents basement." Read more from Forbes