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Home / Articles / Music / Music Features /  Train of Thought
Hellcab
Don’t expect the Rail Runner to make your Hellcab journey to Albuquerque any easier. Courtesy of Mother Road Theatre Company.

Train of Thought

Culture commuters demand Rail Runner access

December 3, 2008, 12:00 am
When Danielle Reddick takes the stage at The Filling Station on Dec. 5, the Santa Fe actor knows her friends won’t be in the Albuquerque theater’s audience.

“It’s just a given that Santa Feans aren’t going to come,” Reddick, who has a role in the dark comedy Hellcab, says. “I mean, my friends blatantly told me, ‘You know what? I’m not going to Albuquerque because I don’t want to drive back.’”

She can chalk it up to the distance, the unpredictable price of gas or plain laziness, but the next time around, she may blame it on the Rail Runner.

Although the ambitious commuter-train project connecting Santa Fe to Albuquerque is expected to launch Dec. 17, the New Mexico Department of Transportation and the Mid-Region Council of Governments have yet to release the final train schedule.

And while the Rail Runner is the little engine that could run at night, Santa Feans are worried it won’t—at least not enough.

That’s why Reddick, along with her husband, film editor Giuseppe Quinn, launched a Facebook campaign to pressure the state to expand the train’s hours to allow for evening cultural events.

“It just feels like a waste,” Reddick says. “Who are they building this train for? Nine to fivers? They did all this work and spent all this money for some of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time.”

As currently proposed, the last northbound train would leave Albuquerque at 6:30 pm Monday through Thursday, at 8:23 pm on Friday and at 9:29 pm on Saturday. The southbound route would run significantly later, with the last trains leaving the Santa Fe Railyard at 9:30 pm Monday through Thursday, at 10:45 pm on Friday and 11:15 pm on Saturday.

According to MRCOG Transit Marketing Coordinator Jay Faught, the train was indeed built to serve commuters.

“We do understand that there are other events in Santa Fe and other cities that people want to use the train to go to, and we’re trying to accommodate those the best that we can,” Faught says. “Funding is the other issue. We have to talk about how much money it costs to run the train and what we can afford to do at this time.”

Some Santa Fe leaders won’t be accepting Reddick and Quinn’s Facebook invitations until they’ve examined the numbers.

“I think that starting an evening train in January might be a pretty tough sell, but I think in the spring and summer there is a great opportunity for additional service,” Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Simon Brackley says. “I would like to monitor the additional service, then review it after a month or two to see if it’s working.“

District 2 City Councilor Rebecca Wurzburger, a top proponent of Santa Fe’s creative industries, concurs.

“I certainly think the concept of having creative people come to Santa Fe late at night would be interesting, but I couldn’t take a formal position on it until I understood the implications in terms of finances,” she says.

The state’s Oct. 8 report on the Rail Runner says resources won’t be available for extended service until the next budget is released in July 2009. This year, according to the report, the budget included $10.5 million in expenses, a figure expected to double when the train begins running to Santa Fe. However, the DOT doesn’t expect more than 40 percent of revenues to come from fares and advertising on the trains; the rest would come from the state.

As of Dec. 2, more than 100 people had joined Reddick and Quinn’s Facebook campaign, “Call for Culture Friendly NM Rail Runner Schedule.”

The Internet movement seems to irritate DOT spokesman SU Mahesh.

“They’re talking out of—,” Mahesh says, before catching himself. “You know, they hear something and it’s on MySpace. I’m sorry, but they don’t have all the facts.”

Mahesh says critics should wait for the final schedule, which should be available within the next two weeks. That document, he says, will reflect the input of several open meetings and more than 700 e-mails sent in by the public over the last several months.

“We’re not working in a vacuum,” Mahesh says. “We are still finalizing the schedule and, until that happens, I can’t tell you what that’s going to be.

However, Faught says Santa Feans can expect special service for local events such as Indian Market. That could be good news for the Santa Fe Film Festival, which is sponsored by the Rail Runner this year.
“Obviously, we were hoping it would be open [in time],” the Dec. 3-7 festival’s Program Director Stephen Rubin says. “We’re going to be doing a Saturday night centerpiece party at the Farmers Market pavilion, which means the train would have been right in front of the party.”

Reddick and Quinn don’t have specific demands, but they suggest a single late night train, perhaps timed for when the bars close or in sync with the last flight arriving into the Albuquerque airport.

“If you build it, they will come,” Quinn says, referring to the night-rider market. “When you live in a community that has trains, you know when that last train is, you know how long you have to get to that train or else you’re stranded. You build your life around it.”

 

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