No, we’re not stuck with the Rail Runner

Today, the front page of the Albuquerque Journal had an interesting story about the plight of the State’s commuter train, the Rail Runner, and whether it would be feasible to sell it or simply get rid of it.

I’ve looked at the data and the study itself (thanks for passing it along Dan Boyd) and, I have to disagree with some of the study’s conclusions. That said, it is amazing how public opinion has turned against the train which Bill Richardson said would go from El Paso to Denver. Also, the study correctly notes that selling the train is a non-starter. No one would be foolhardy to invest their own money in a money-losing train like this one.

What the study gets wrong is shutting the train down entirely, an option that would save from $28 to $32 million annually over the next few years. Unfortunately, the study “developed in this analysis mimicked the train trips’ schedules and service patterns.” That’s a bad mistake by itself because a vast majority of riders travel between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Many of the stops in-between (and within the cities themselves) are superfluous and only slow the train.

This report also fails to account for potential private sector solutions. Why couldn’t a private company run shuttle vans between Albuquerque and Santa Fe? I have taken the Rail Runner, but it is not very convenient. If it goes away and nothing replaces it, we can at least use the savings to pay down the capital costs. If there is really a robust market for transportation between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, the state would do best by getting out of the way.

There’s no reason for taxpayers to have to pay the transportation costs for government workers who want to live in Albuquerque and work in Santa Fe.