The latest ridership numbers are out for the Rail Runner and the numbers look terrible. According to the Albuquerque Journal, ridership dropped an astonishing 11 percent over the past year. Worse, that number has plummeted by 40 percent since its peak. See the charts below:
Operators blame low gas prices and the bad economy, two interrelated issues that could be blamed for just about everything happening in New Mexico these days. The reality is that new transit projects almost always over-promise and under-deliver (a refrain all-too-common in government generally)
Worse, low ridership is only going to mean greater hemorrhaging of taxpayer dollars on every trip as trains continue to run (costing the same amount, but fare-box collections decline). Obviously, Bill Richardson is the first person to blame, but with taxpayers in the Albuquerque Metro still smarting from one mass-transit boondoggle, why is Mayor Berry pushing a second boondoggle-in-the-making known as Albuquerque Rapid Transit?
Is Mayor Berry really trying to emulate Bill Richardson?
3 Replies to “The ongoing decline in Rail Runner ridership — warning signs for Mayor Berry’s ART?”
New Mexico does not understand public transportation. Transit systems thrive in big cities because they are faster and more convenient than driving. The Rail Runner is failing because — since politicians added stations and doubled the travel time — it’s uncompetitive with driving.
ART will follow the same trajectory. Politicians will add bus stops to make ART less rapid. Like the Rail Runner, it will be the transportation of last resort for people with no other alternative. At least it will get the homeless off the sidewalks.
The Rail Runner has the unique distinction, as far as I know, of being the only mass transit system built where there are no masses to transit.
As I read the article, revenues were $2.4 million, and operational costs were $26 million. That means each of 887,212 (443,606 each way) tickets would need to average $30
I do not know if the operating costs include amortization of the $400+ million acquisition/start-up costs, but doubt it.
$400 million on a 10-year bond at even 4% would be over $40 million/year
A 20-year bond at 3% would be $27 million annually
Or $60 per ticket, total, roughly
Return likely would have to be higher, because rational people know those necessarily must be junk bonds.
One wag said other benefits must be included, such as road construction for all those cars. Well, one person per car, spread over 260 work days per year only, comes to 1,706 vehicles in each direction daily, or one lane hour or less of highway capacity. That would hardly be a significant problem for that corridor, unless you put them all there at once.
Imagine the proposed cost of the California boondoggle, LA to SF, in the billions. With how many stops, taking how many hours? At least 6-8, given the Boston-DC trip which I have done more than once. And that corridor has something over 40 million people within 20 miles of the rail line.
I will ride from Belen to Santa Fe and back, so I can time the trip versus my roughly two hours by car (Which allows me to stop along the way to handle child care, dry cleaning, building materials, and groceries, and all those other chores I cannot do on a train, or bus)
Recall? Nearly 40% of all public transit in the United States occurs in NYC!