Sunday, July 08, 2007

What's Wrong

The title is not a question. We are again writing about New Mexico Rail Runner.

First three things:

Train Frequency: Not enough daytime trains. Judging from what we saw and heard on board, hourly departures from Albuquerque would not be out of line. This railroad does have places where trains can pass, and the management should put in more passing sidings if needed. No commuter rail service is going to build a following with less than hourly service during daytime hours.

(The big guys fudge on this and usually include one hourly lapse during the day. Usually around 2pm or just before the traffic buildup for rush hours. Sometimes this is only to clear freight service, but mostly it is to make a shift change for employees who have been on service since about 4am. Neither would be true for Rail Runner.)

Scheduling: This ties in with frequency. Fifteen minutes is nice and leisurely at each end, but the only place this should happen is at the train's origination point. Make an immediate departure and tighten up to an hourly schedule.

Connections: We noted that the only place a connection was prepared to take train passengers on to other destinations was in Bernalillo, where a shuttle was prepared to go to the Santa Ana Star Casino. In Albuquerque, the free circulator run by ABQ Ride was leaving before anyone could walk to the boarding point from the train. In Belen, there just aren't any connections. Because the stations are only close to something (work, restaurants, businesses, recreational locations) in Albuquerque's downtown, we think many will not consider the train until there are better connections that take riders more places from the station. The converse of this is that feeders from popular locations and neighborhoods will bring revenue riders to the train.

What else is wrong? We still don't know where this is going to go when the heavy-duty subsidies run out. Governor Richardson was a big supporter, but he won't be governor forever. We hope. And the justice department people (both state and federal) are asking alot of questions of many of the architects and project managers that have previously been on the scene to move and shake building projects. Extension of Rail Runner to Santa Fe isn't railroading as much as a state sponsored building project. If too many connected people go down in flames, will it ever get done?

© 2007 - C. A. Turek -
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