Why the ABQ Chamber is wrong on the Rail Runner

This article which included Albuquerque Chamber President Terri Cole had me scratching my head. Not that we haven’t had our differences with Cole and the Chamber, but their ongoing defense of the Rail Runner is getting ridiculous.

Simply put, the Rail Runner is an unaffordable luxury and it always was. Remember I-25 before the Rail Runner? If anyone can clearly show that traffic has improved on that road, I’d like to see their data. Also, if businesses in Santa Fe do such great business from the train, why don’t they put their money where their mouths are?

Ultimately, the issue boils down to whether, as they say in the article, “a comprehensive multimodal transportation system which efficiently moves people and product because it is an economic development necessity and is essential to creating a vibrant and competitive city and state.” How so? We have a socialized transportation system, what signals are we using to determine the best mix of the various transportation modes? Is there really solid evidence that cities which massively invest in heavy rail transit are in better economic shape than those that don’t?

The train did not markedly improve transportation issues — such as traffic congestion — in the I-25 corridor and is clearly unaffordable without tax hikes of some sort. Of course, we agree with the Chamber that tax hikes are a bad idea, but doesn’t this mean that we have to cut spending somewhere?

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9 Replies to “Why the ABQ Chamber is wrong on the Rail Runner”

  1. Areas that invest heavily in mass transit *will* be better off when oil reserves dwindle and gas prices go up and stay there (and they will, I assure you).

    The Rail Runner will look pretty good when gas hits $6/gallon, or $10.

    That is if we can drag ourselves away from our socialist road subsidies…unless you’ve drunk the “roads pay for themselves” kool-aid.

    1. Then won’t entrepreneurs want to get in on the business? Why do we need the government? BTW: roads may not pay for themselves, but they could absent the government being in charge. Most big highways in Europe are privately-built and managed toll roads and gas is way more expensive over there. Their trains still don’t make money…

      1. Paul, you are correct that roads don’t make money, so why do you continue this biased attack on rail transport(be it moving people or freight)?

        Even those private tollroads in Europe you mentioned are cross subsidized by traffic coming from taxpayer funded local roads.

    2. Posted on behalf of Torrey Baird: Psst Hey Joby, I detect a hint of class envy in your comment. Let me give you a bit of advice. Marry your girlfriend and have her dad move in with you. Problem solved. If you are concerned about you girlfriend’s dad why don’t you put your money where your mouth is, Joby Then you can be one big happy family.
      “Government services” is an oxymoron.
      The progressive experiment foisted on the United States in the prior one hundred years got us to this point. We must recognize the problem to solve it.
      The best way to improve any service is to limit the size of the agency that provides it. With that in mind we need to get rid of Departments of Energy, Education, Agriculture, Commerce, etc.
      I have yet to see any budget proposal that cuts spending now.

  2. Paul:

    The Rail Runner is simply the single and largest “mal-investment” that the State of New Mexico has ever made.

    Over the first 10-20 years of its existence, the Rail Runner will waste the better part of a billion dollars of taxpayer transportation money.

    In a state the size of New Mexico that’s enormous.

    At the same time it will have rendered benefits to far less than 1% of our population.

    That billion dollars, if investested in new roads, improvements of existing roads, and other more efficient public transportation such as buses, would have had a far, far higher return for our citizens.

    It’s a pity and hopefully we won’t repeat it again.


    John Onstad

  3. Amen Paul! Europe pays for it’s mass transit with the toll roads and inflated gasoline prices (6-$7 per gallon) Also encourages alt fuel vehicles. Any politican got the balls to jack gas prices up to $6 and build a toll booth on I-25 north of Bernalillo? Not with re-election their primary concern. Term limits anyone?

  4. I understand from some LFC numbers that the true cost of a trip from Albuquerque to Santa Fe is around $19.50, each way. Maybe we should try charging full price for a month or two and see if the system is viable and can pay for itself.

    That would test the resolve of the riders. Subsidizing the cost seems a bit socialistic to me.

  5. As submited to Alb Journal, a portion published July 10,
    Dear Editor:

    Larry Abraham’s July 3, 2011 Albuquerque Journal OP-ED “ RailRunner a fiscal Challenge” indicating “Like it or not, every taxpayer in New Mexico is on this train” reminded me why thirteen colonies July 4, 235 years ago, derailed the British monarchy.
    “Taxation without representation” was the slogan of the day. Colonists were taxed enough already. In 2006 New Mexicans were never permitted to support or reject Railrunner at the ballot box. Regardless of taxpayers, Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Washington DC political elites decided Railrunner was necessary and required.

    There was never a statewide demand for commuter rail service between Belen and Santa Fe. Every study on the proposal indicated it was not economically feasible. Despite the consensus of prior studies Governor Richardson enlisted Lawrence Rael to tout the benefits of Railrunner. One rationale for commuter rail was that New Mexicans paid more for transportation costs to go to work than they spent for medical visits. Evidently no legislator was bright enough to realize the absurdity of that statement. Taxpayers go to the doctor several times a year and to work Monday through Friday.

    The Albuquerque Journal published many letters by this and other writers who exposed the Railrunner as a scam. Lest we forget, the first beneficiary of Railrunner was Governor Richardson’s presidential campaign which received a $50,000 donation from Burlington Northern. Can taxpayers say pay to play? Since US AG Holder refused to prosecute Richardson, we’ll never know.

    Mr. Abraham stated all New Mexicans are in this fiscal challenge but only four of thirty-three counties benefit from Railrunner. Counties like De Baca, Harding, Eddy, Luna, Roosevelt, Mora, Catron, Lincoln and Otero to name a few, should not be obligated because they receive no benefit.

    Let’s have social justice in New Mexico with users paying. The four counties concerned about air pollution, traffic congestion and climate change should pay for their conviction. Taxpayers from Bernalillo, Sandoval, Santa Fe and Valencia counties should happily vote to raise their gross receipts tax (GRT) from .125 to 1.0 cent, an eightfold increase. According to reports the annual expense for Railrunner including debt service is $66.7 million. The GRT would have to increase at least five fold anyway to cover existing annual expenses including the debt service.

    Readers probably noticed the writer’s proposal does not include fare revenue. If Bernalillo, Sandoval, Santa Fe and Valencia county taxpayers are so concerned about road congestion and pollution, just make Railrunner a free service. While you are at it, there should be enough GRT revenue left over for additional debt and free bus service. After all, revenue isn’t a consideration, right?

    Mr. Abraham, Santa Fe merchants and New Mexicans should realize that although more than a million New Mexico taxpayers are obligated for the Railrunner snafu, less than 2,500 riders currently benefit, at a cost of $80.00 per ride. Mayor Abraham needs to be asked by taxpayers how many times he or any resident of Los Ranchos de Albuquerque actually ride Railrunner.

    Legislators statewide and every candidate for national office must insist those who benefit from Railrunner pay for it. Then New Mexico taxpayers can declare independence, disembark from the fiscal insanity train and stop being railroaded by Railrunner.

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