The only way for the RailRunner to break even is to reduce service. By definition, this means that the system is not sustainable.
The folks at Rio Metro who operate the train understand this and were faced with some tough decisions in face of a loss of federal funds for the train. A few days ago, I wrote that discontinuing some early morning services and eliminating stops on a few trains could actually improve service.
Instead, Rio Metro will discontinue weekend service on the train. In some ways, this is a logical decision. After all, if the goal of the train is that of a “commuter” train, weekday service must be continued at the expense of weekend service.
The Journal also had an article on the decision and, while the tourists who use the train were understandably perplexed, Rey Garduno who sits on the Rio Metro board had the silliest remarks. Said Garduño, “Weekend routes are valued by the community and should be protected.” Well, if that service was valued by the community, wouldn’t the community be willing to pay enough to continue it? To date, weekend service is only “valued” to the extent that a $1.2 million federal grant is available.
While she did not move to shut down the RailRunner during this legislative session, Gov. Martinez is wisely not planning to add even more General Fund dollars to subsidize weekend service. I hope she maintains this stance, but as long as it rolls down the tracks, the RailRunner will continue to be an unnecessary burden on New Mexico taxpayers.