In a 6-5 vote Friday, the Rio Metro Regional Transit District Board opted to kill weekend train service between Belen and Santa Fe in order to save money.
According to a press release sent out late Friday afternoon, the board opted to retain all current weekday trains because of the train's intended function as a commuter service.
Steve Lewis at the Santa Fe Convention Center and Visitor's Bureau did not immediately return SFR's call, but anyone who's ever taken the Rail Runner on a weekend knows there are plenty of heavily accented tourists who will miss its service.
And with less service, obviously, comes less income. What's next?
Here's the press release from the Rail Runner:
Reduction in revenues requires adjustment of expenditures for train service
(Albuquerque, NM-- June 17th, 2011) -- As part of discussions and deliberations concerning balancing the FY12 budget, which is 1.2 million dollars less than the previous fiscal year's budget, the Rio Metro Regional Transit District Board voted to eliminate weekend service on the New Mexico Rail Runner Express. The board had been considering two weekday schedule options to address the budget reduction, but in a six-to-five vote earlier today, board members instead took action to eliminate weekend service to balance the Fiscal Year 2012 Federal budget.
"This was originally envisioned as a commuter service, and that's the piece we want to maintain without affecting anybody", said Steve Shaw, Chairman of the Rio Metro Board. "While we recognize the weekend service from a tourism and convenience point of view, we think it's more important to support the initial mission of the train without affecting the people who use it to get to and from work."
When service began to Santa Fe in 2008, a portion of that service was paid for with CMAQ funds--Congestion Mitigation Air Quality Funds--which can only be used for a three-year period to support operations based on federal regulations. That three-year clock runs out in FY12, and has resulted in a 1.2 million dollar budget reduction. To date, there has been no alternative funding source identified to make up the difference.
"We're having ongoing conversations with the state looking at all options", said Dewey Cave, Executive Director for the Mid-Region Council of Governments. "We're partners in this endeavor and we're looking at every option available to minimize the impact of service cuts".
Weekend service on the New Mexico Rail Runner Express will continue through mid-to-late August. We are reviewing how the cut in weekend service will affect the budget and determine if any other changes need to made.