The Santa Fe New Mexican recently editorialized, albeit half-heartedly, in favor of keeping the Rail Runner chugging down the tracks. In doing so, they made the brilliant observation that “The key to making the Rail Runner a success is finding the money to operate it.” Duh, if money were no object, then the world would be a very different place and we’d all have flying cars and not need a train anyway.
The paper also stated the old nostrum that “mass transit never makes a profit, and it seldom breaks even.” Even that is simply not true. Check this link out. Some systems in Asia do more than break even and nearly all systems do better in terms of fare box recovery than the Rail Runner which has a ratio of 13%.
Of course, the line about road subsidies was then brought up, but, even if certain roads in rural areas are subsidized, what are we to do, not have them? The fact is that no community could survive without roads while most survive just fine without passenger rail playing a major role in the transportation mix. And, of course, as this chart shows (on the first actual page), transit and rail receive subsidies far in excess of those allocated to roads.
For more information on the Rail Runner’s disturbing finances and what to do about it, go here.
And, as a bit of an aside, I found the comments of one of the authors of the book “Freakonomics” on libertarian transportation analyst Randal O’Toole quite interesting.