ABQ Journal obliterates Rail Runner

We at the Rio Grande Foundation have never seen the Rail Runner as a viable mode of transportation. It never made financial sense and it was never going to make a real difference in terms of ridership replacing traffic along the I-25 corridor. In fact, we at the Rio Grande Foundation called for the train to be mothballed back in 2011.

Now, the Albuquerque Journal’s editorial board has essentially taken the Foundation’s position in an editorial published today. While they don’t come out and say “shut it down,” there is no doubt that the train’s finances don’t make sense (and never really did).

Liberals who control the Legislature will be loathe to shut down a transit system that touches on so many fantasies they hold about the way the world works. But, with an additional $50 million expense added to the gusher of red ink and costs are going up in so many other areas of government (an additional $84 million is needed for Medicaid next year to name just one) in a time of flat revenue, it is indeed time for some tough decisions in Santa Fe.

The issue is whether they are willing to prioritize the government spending they value over other, less-valuable spending.

No matter how bad the train’s finances, the declining ridership is what may finally generate some action. With a ridership decline of 33% since the train initially got moving, clearly local population does not see the train as a viable option. How long will New Mexico continue to let this train burn through our tax dollars?




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11 Replies to “ABQ Journal obliterates Rail Runner”

  1. If I wanted to kill the Rail Runner I would increase its travel time by adding stops in rural areas. Then I would suppress ridership by scheduling trains only for weekday commuters and limiting mid-day and weekend service to discourage leisure riders. Finally, I would decline to promote the service to tourists.

    The Rio Metro Regional Transit District already is doing an effective job of killing the Rail Runner. All taxpayers need to do is pull the plug.

  2. Excellent editorial by the Journal. I recommend cutting out of the paper and saving.

    Think of some of the extraordinary numbers. The Railroader is costing about 29 million a year in debt service and another 46.6 million for everything else for a total of 75.6 million. Fares are paying 2.4 million or just 3% of the total budget. So the other 97% is coming from taxpayers: federal ; state and local. Subtracting the 2.4 million passenger fare total from the 75.6 million total comes to a net of 73.2 million. Dividing 73.2 million by the number of passengers for the last fiscal year of 835,561 equals $87.60 per passenger! So for every passenger, it is costing taxpayers $87.60. Are you kidding me? Truly the “March of Folly.”

    I have an idea. Why not eliminate all fares on the Railroader. That way during bad weather the homeless people that annoy passengers on Albuquerque buses can annoy more people over a wider geographic area, including the gentrified people of Santa Fe.

  3. It is even more frustrating for those of us not living on the line and having to pay for it with our tax money. I live in Farmington. We have to no access to such a service at any price, but we are paying for it. That is stupid government!!!

  4. The level of sociopathy reflected in these comments and editorial are indicative of the sort of deep resentment of anything that empowers or enables less reliance on and less profit for the “Big Money” world. Every passenger on the Rail Runner is one less truck or car polluting the air and consuming fossile fuel. It is a well established fact that the atmosphere in and around New Mexico contains high levels of hydrocarbon material. We all, regardless of political belief or mental capacity, have to breathe that air even the “aginers”. I would myself be very much in favor of making passage on the Rail Runner free of charge – no doubt more people would consider it then. Also, what is glaringly missing in the system is end-point transportation transportation that is convenient.

    1. A researcher told me that the Railrunner consumes 1 gallon per train car per mile of diesel fuel. At 190 miles per round trip and with a train consisting of 8 cars, that’s 1,520 gallons per round trip.

      If your auto gets 35 mpg on the highway that’s enough motor fuel to drive 53,200 miles. At 190 miles per round trip that enough fuel for 280 autos. The Railrunner is lucky to carry 20% of that on average.

      Isn’t diesel a fossil fuel?

      That’s similar thinking to those who drive “coal-fired” Teslas!

      “You can lead a liberal to the facts, but you can’t make him think.”


    2. This is quite an amusing comment. RGF would be pleased to have a bus system shuttling people regularly to their jobs in Santa Fe. Service would be faster, more regular/frequent, and exponentially cheaper. I bet a private company could/would do this if barriers and regulations were reduced a bit, but we’d be fine with a modestly-subsidized government bus system. The Rail Runner is a complete boondoggle and we knew it would be all along.

  5. Aah, the RailROBBER…a stunning Albatross! Did Presidential Candidate Richardson ram this through without a Environmental Impact Study whereby we missed out on “other” Fed (albeit taxpayer) funds so that he could have more time during the campaign to look like the supreme Eco-Friendly/Green Candidate? Did anyone notice he kept the initial funding of 400 million “low” by avoiding putting in Quiet Crossings especially in the North Valley that had to cost mucho tax dollars later?
    – Who was to benefit but the cadre of State employees who cut their gasoline bills in half plus wear and tear on their cars! Did that amount to an inventive form of an under the table/tax free raise? Did that pump up votes?
    – I remember attending a Pre-Train “Community Input” session in the old school(?) and then over in the candle lit former restaurant/convent up in Bernalillo where I asked for the results of the survey to assess potential ridership and costs including tickets. This is what I learned: 0. No survey was done!!!!
    – Tourists look at me and gasp when I tell them 10 bucks roundtrip to Santa Fe including shuttle to the Plaza.
    – And then there is the parking planning by The taxpaid for Experts. Did you ever see the initial lot on El Pueblo which caused more land to be needed to be bought across the street which hasn’t subdued congestive parking along the “gutters”. Whopdeedoo….was it a million later spent to build the “Transportation Center” on Montano that still looks pretty barren in terms of use…do “They” even try to get the word out it exists?
    – Complete and utter INCOMPETENCE…some might say fraud….all the way around IMHO!
    – And finally the biggest abomination: No Porta Potties for years….6 medical conditions…separate from drinking too much coffee….result in unpredictable Urinary Frequency and Urgency….pity the pregnant gal trying to explain to a couple of toddlers in tow they must “hold it” for the onboard train potty….which sometimes might be late per a suicide, engineer forgetting the key, etc.. Lo, the Senior GrandMa tourist who has no option but to squat between a couple of cars (aah shades of Woodstock…LOL) and risk arrest for indecent exposure!!!
    – Salud!

  6. Paul:

    “Economics is the study of the allocation of scare resources for which there are multiple uses.”


  7. This corridor is the perfect distance for electric cars and buses. The train serves no purpose for the rest of the state, especially SENM were most of the budget money comes from.

  8. So seven years were required for several hundred thousand trip-takers (the folks) to figure out the rail service does not accommodate trips for child care, hospital visits, home improvement centers, visiting relatives, stopping by to hunt and fish and hike, or any of the myriad activities we enjoy as a result of having personal transportation. And it’s slower, as Seattle has found.

    Richardson would be a great third hand at Cribbage, with Frank and Dodd, creators of the mortgage meltdown, for which others are blamed by the haters (Which group really grew in the years since the nomination of Robert Bork to the USSC).

    Ask who the fourth for Bridge might be in a room with striped sunlight.

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