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.

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4 Replies to “No, we’re not stuck with the Rail Runner”

  1. If there is no political will to sell the choo-choo or shut it down, how about using a private contractor to operate it instead of a government agency? That could minimize losses by reducing operating expenses and increasing revenue.

    1. N.M. has 45% more public sector employees than the national average (25 per 100 vs 17 per 100). Private operation of the Railroader would reduce public sector employment and would therefore be opposed by the Dems.

  2. A “smart” transit system whether run by the state or privately makes more sense. A smart system would allow smaller sized vehicles to pick up the right number of people at their homes or businesses and drop them at their destinations. The system runs on an rsvp service which would be an app much like Uber.
    Instead of a monster train which is a gas hog, the smart system would use alternative fuels.
    Have you ever been around the diesel fumes while the trains idle at the stations? It is an environmental hazard.

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