Getting Railroaded All Over

If you have followed New Mexico politics and the Rio Grande Foundation at all over the past year, you are probably aware of the RailRunner commuter rail train and the streetcar system that is now being fast-tracked through City Council by Mayor Chavez.
I attended a public hearing on the RailRunner in Santa Fe on Thursday, the 16th. While at least 100 people were in attendance — many of them skeptical of the RailRunner in the first place — the only real discussion focused on which of two routes should be used to lay track to downtown Santa Fe. Unfortunately, no one has any numbers on whether the system as it operates now is a success or failure. While backers of the project and the streetcar seem to think that the RailRunner’s success is self-evident, they give no data to support their claims.
The fact is that since it opened to great applause from the media and politicians, ridership on the Rail Runner is down significantly. I took a ride on it a few months ago and noted the drop in ridership and I took another ride on it on Friday, November 17. While 60 or so people were on the 7:24am train downtown, 10 or less were on the 7:35am train from downtown to Bernalillo. Even on the trip downtown there was plenty of room to spread out as each car is designed to hold 200 passengers.
Of course, the only way to really tell what is happending would be for MRCOG to release detailed ridership statistics and revenue information, but that hasn’t happened yet. Before we spend $270 million taxpayer dollars to build another rail project, shouldn’t we at least find out if the first one is achieving its goals?

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