Update on the Rail Runner

I recently spoke to a reporter from an online publication called “New West” about the New Mexico RailRunner. While fiscal conservatives obviously have deep concerns over the financial impact this train is having on the state budget, it doesn’t appear that the train will be stopped unless the budget takes another major downturn and deeper cuts must be made.

Of course, the fact that taxpayers are on the hook for $400 million to build and $20 million annually to operate the train — not to mention another $400 million in maintenance costs every 30 years that are not currently accounted for — makes the Rail Runner a huge subsidy for a relatively small group of workers, most of whom live in Albuquerque and work in Santa Fe.

The real issue at this point is in making sure that efforts to extend the train — discussed in the article — are not successful. Martinez wouldn’t go along with such a scheme, but you can bet that liberals around the state who worship mass transit will be looking for every opportunity to do so.

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9 Replies to “Update on the Rail Runner”

  1. Paul:

    I’m sorry that the RGF takes such a “middle-of-the-road” position on the viability of the Rail Runner, and its continuing deficits.

    The Rail Runner’s annual operating deficit is $20-30 million. This is after the State of NM spent about $500 million to build the system. That’s 1/2 a billion dollars!!!

    There’s absolutely no justification for continuing this subsidy, unless you’re pledged to suppurt Bill Richardson’s vision of heavily-subsidized public transit forever-and-ever.

    I know it might be a great embarrassment but we’ve got to close the Rail Runner “right now.”

    It just doesn’t make any economic sense to continue this economic disaster, and the sooner we close it the sooner we can invest these funds for the benefit of all New Mexican’s transportation needs.


    John Onstad

    1. I don’t think you understand our position, John. We vehemently oppose the train. That said, Gov. Martinez did not even put the train on the table in her efforts to cut the budget this year. Barring the need for significant additional cuts, I doubt it is going to be killed.

  2. According to data I have seen, the capital cost of the pet toy of X Gov Bill is over $ 900 M. At least our current Gov is trying to get out of the stupid deal to buy all the track from Santa Fe to CO state line. If this deal were to hold, NM would have to pay for the maintenance and other costs annually.

    Further freight trains move at about 45 mph while passenger trains should go about twice as fast, so the freight lines are not built for passenger service.

  3. As long as the NM Rail Runner is heavily subsidized, shouldn’t its board seek greater efficiency? The post 9pm weekday roundtrip clearly has the least ridership. Shouldn’t it be dropped?

  4. Roads are there regardless of economic conditions and are fiscal black holes. You just want the political deck loaded against rail lines.

    1. Not at all. Roads are there because everyone benefits from them — even if you don’t own a car. Rail works great for freight and is managed privately (we should do the same thing for the rest of our infrastructure), but passenger trains demand massive subsidies.

  5. Seems to me that State Government is the driving force behind the Albu-Santa Fe run. Wouldn’t it be cheaper to move the round house to Albuquerque? Brazil did it with their national capital.

  6. I’m not aware of any public transportation system that is self supporting. They are all subsidized. I have no problem with subsidizing as long as its done for the public good such as the bus network in ABQ. That said, I do not support the RailRunner given its large expense and the availability of a lower cost alternative (buses).

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