ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – If you’re not driving, the Rail Runner may be the cheapest option to commute between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, but it’s expensive to operate. A long term plan from the Rio Metro, the tri-county transit provider which operates the train, outlines several tactics to increase revenue in the coming years.
As of 2017, their annual operational cost is about $26-million, that’s separate from the $28-million per year the state is still paying for the construction of the Rail Runner. According to Rio Metro, funding to keep the actual train in service comes primarily from the federal government, gross receipts tax in the counties where it’s operating, Amtrak & BNSF fees to use the tracks, rider fares and selling some on-board advertising.
“We want to make sure that we keep the costs amenable so that people can ride the system without breaking the bank,” said Augusta Meyers, spokesperson for the Mid Region Council of Governments which oversees Rio Metro. “And we feel we’ve managed to do that and still offset the other costs to run the train.”
However, there’s always a “what if,” which is why the Rio Metro says they compiled a comprehensive long term plan to look at other ways to keep transit, including the Rail Runner operational.
That may even include getting sponsorship or naming rights for things associated with the Rail Runner like stops along the route. But you won’t see a company name on those spots anytime soon since they’re state owned properties according to the Rio Metro.
Right now, Rio Metro said ridership brings in only about $2.5-million a year. Another suggestion in the plan could be a fare-free ride for Rail Runner passengers, but that’s a long way off from consideration.
While they may be comfortable for now, the Rio Metro says weekday ridership is down six percent from 2016 and they usually only get a boost in riders when gas prices start to climb.