A RailRunner Experience

I took my first-ever trip on the new Rail Runner commuter train this weekend to and from the New Mexico Wine Festival and thought I’d offer a few thoughts on the train. First and foremost, I got on at the Paseo/Los Ranchos station for the first train of the day. The train was jammed to the gills and it wasn’t just standing room, but sardine-like conditions. The train cars are nice and the air conditioning was cranked up so conditions weren’t too bad. On the way back on the 3:05 train, there were fewer people although it was still standing room only.
Obviously, the price for a ticket is still “0” and most economists will tell you that there is a nearly unlimited demand for anything that is “free.” Curiously enough, this very same dynamic was at work inside the wine festival as well where the lines for a “free” sip of wine were upwards of 10 minutes long. I did notice that, while large numbers of passengers did take the train to the wine festival, equally large numbers (at least on the first train of the day) appeared to be joy-riding. After all, I saw many of the people that had just gotten off the train at Bernalillo, get back on the train right away.
While the train may prove popular even after the “reduced fare” of $2 per trip (as opposed to free) is instituted on October 14, the most important number is the estimated $320 million cost to taxpayers. Even if you don’t believe as I do that the $320 million would be best given back to the taxpayers of New Mexico in the form of tax cuts, it is hard to believe that other legitimate needs would not be better served than a train, the tickets for which, are priced far below market prices.