Is the Bloom off the Rail Runner?

Despite the fact that I live nowhere near a Rail Runner station and have no real need to ride the thing, I decided to take a ride on the train this morning to see how ridership is holding up. As you may know, the train is still “free,” at least in the sense that it costs nothing to get on, but that will change in mid-October.
Anyway, I took the train from Journal Center northbound at 7:46am and found that the crowds have thinned out considerably as compared to what I’d read in early news reports about the throngs of people aboard. Despite the fact that there were only two cars on the train, I had my own row and there were less than 25 passengers on my car.
When I got off at the 550/Sandoval station, a handful (less than 5) people got off who looked like they were going to work. Most of the rest of the people seemed to be waiting either on or near the train for the trip south. Clearly, 2 months in, a large percentage of the train’s passengers are joyriders.
On the way back south on the 8:20am train, I switched cars and counted 10 passengers on board. When I got back off at the Journal Center station, there were between 10 and 15 people getting on to go downtown, but by no means was the train going to be crowded.
Another sign of the Rail Runner’s declining popularity was abundant parking — the lots at 550/Sandoval and Journal Center were at most half full.
So, what does this all mean? Just that before millions of additional taxpayer dollars are spent on laying Rail Runner track to Santa Fe, perhaps we should more honestly assess whether these trains more resemble shiny new toys that will actually harm our overall transportation network or whether they are in fact serious efforts to better move people from place to place.

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