We at the Rio Grande Foundation have never seen the Rail Runner as a viable mode of transportation. It never made financial sense and it was never going to make a real difference in terms of ridership replacing traffic along the I-25 corridor. In fact, we at the Rio Grande Foundation called for the train to be mothballed back in 2011.
Now, the Albuquerque Journal’s editorial board has essentially taken the Foundation’s position in an editorial published today. While they don’t come out and say “shut it down,” there is no doubt that the train’s finances don’t make sense (and never really did).
Liberals who control the Legislature will be loathe to shut down a transit system that touches on so many fantasies they hold about the way the world works. But, with an additional $50 million expense added to the gusher of red ink and costs are going up in so many other areas of government (an additional $84 million is needed for Medicaid next year to name just one) in a time of flat revenue, it is indeed time for some tough decisions in Santa Fe.
The issue is whether they are willing to prioritize the government spending they value over other, less-valuable spending.
No matter how bad the train’s finances, the declining ridership is what may finally generate some action. With a ridership decline of 33% since the train initially got moving, clearly local population does not see the train as a viable option. How long will New Mexico continue to let this train burn through our tax dollars?