Local governments in the Albuquerque region, like their counterparts in the state’s hinterlands, are facing mounting fiscal pressures. New Mexico’s “recovery” is one of the worst in the nation, while the costs of welfare, public-employee compensation, and subsidized healthcare remain on autopilot.
In metro Albuquerque, shortfalls are exacerbated by the cruel reality of the Rail Runner’s ravenous appetite for revenue. Yes, ten years after it launched — the formal anniversary is in July — the nation’s most disastrous commuter-rail line is still around.
Here’s the projected revenue breakdown for fiscal 2017, courtesy the Mid-Region Council of Governments:
As for “demand,” the Rail Runner continues to attract fewer and fewer “customers,” with ridership dropping by 12.7 percent between 2010 and 2014:
Killing the Rail Runner won’t free taxpayers from the debt the state incurred to cover infrastructure costs. Bondholders must be paid, no matter what, and astronomical balloon payments are due in the 2020s. But shutting the boondoggle down will save the $15.4 million in operating subsidies provided by gross-receipts taxes. And selling the rolling stock and other assets to anyone willing to make an offer will at least recoup some of taxpayers’ “investment.”
There’s no time like the present to admit that the Rail Runner has been a disaster. It should be euthanized, immediately.