Hooray! The Rail Runner’s “balloon payments” of more than $100 million each in 2025 and 2026 have been eliminated. In a sense that is good news because taxpayers won’t be hit by huge bills in those two years.
The bad news is that those payments could have finally convinced policymakers to abandon the boondoggle. Now, with payments “smoothed” and extended due to this refinancing scheme there will not likely be a critical mass among our political leadership to address the reality that the Rail Runner is a waste of money.
The train which has always been heavily subsidized is also unpopular. In FY 2010 the train carried 1.24 million passengers. By FY 2017 that number dropped to 835,600. It is not alone as transit systems across the country have seen steep declines, but few systems are as heavily subsidized by taxpayers as the Rail Runner.
The prudent move has always been to stop the train. The more prudent move would have been to never create it in the first place. While Gov. Martinez can be criticized for not abandoning the train, at least she did not stick taxpayers with the Rail Runner or something like it.