The New Mexico Rail Runner Express can’t seem to catch a break. On July 17, the Rio Metro Regional Transit District Board opted, in a 6-5 vote, to eliminate weekend train service between Belen and Santa Fe [SFReporter.com, June 18: “No More Weekend Rail Runner Service”]. The change is intended to curb budget cuts that resulted in a $1.2 million decline in Rail Runner funding from fiscal year 2011 to FY2012. The train already endures criticism for its limited schedule, but the decision raises other concerns: Santa Fe didn’t get a vote. In fact, no Santa Fe representative has sat on the Rio Metro Board since its inception. Now, Santa Fe officials are pushing the Rio Metro Board to reverse the decision.
Conventions & Visitors Bureau Executive Director Jim Bradbury
It’s a shame that the weekend service is being cut off because it’s going to hurt the retail merchants tremendously. That’s a lot of spending that’s not going to happen in our community, so that’s hurtful.
The Rio Metro area has never included the city of Santa Fe since it was set up. I don’t know that that makes sense because Santa Fe has always been part of the service.
District 2 City Councilor Rebecca Wurzburger
This is a major setback for Santa Fe. We’ve been looking at ways of having the train enhance the local economy. We’ve been working to move the visitors’ center to the Railyard. We’ve arranged the [Santa Fe] Pick-Up.
It is good to have representation. Had Santa Fe been sitting at the table, perhaps that decision might not have been made; perhaps it would. It would certainly have been much better for us to have had a voice. We don’t right now.
The issue right now is, how are we going to get the reversal of something that was moving forward positively without our input?
We’re telling them, ‘Reverse your decision now; give us some more time to come up with funding alternatives.’
This problem cannot be solved by cuts. It’s the same problem we had when we went through our budget recently. We have to, as a community, spend more time thinking about how you start building additional markets.
Mayor David Coss
I think the decision has to be changed. We actually just met with members of the Rio Metro Board, and Rio Metro and [Department of Transportation] individuals. It was myself, Councilor [Rosemary] Romero, the director of our transitional district, Commissioner [Virginia] Vigil, Councilor [Ronald] Trujillo. We think it was the wrong decision and we’ve asked them to change that.
What’s clear from this meeting is that the Rail Runner has some issues that need to be addressed. There’s a deficit at the Rail Runner of about $5 million a year.
We’re not going to cut our way to a stronger economy and healthier communities.
As local governments, we’re willing to do our share. Communities did pass the ¹⁄8 [percent gross receipts] tax. We’re going to ask the state to make this a great rail system and the federal government to help as well.
All transportation is subsidized—any state highways, bike lanes, rail systems, transit systems. They do bear a platform that your economy is built on.