New Mexico Rail Runner Express
|New Mexico Rail Runner Express|
|Locale||Albuquerque, New Mexico
|Stations||13 open (14 planned)|
|Opened||July 14, 2006|
|Owner||NMDOT and MRCOG|
Herzog Transit Services Inc.
|Line length||97 miles (156 km)|
|No. of tracks||1-2|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm)|
|Operating speed||max: 79 miles per hour (127 km/h)|
The New Mexico Rail Runner Express (NMRX) is a commuter rail system serving the metropolitan areas of Albuquerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico. It is administered by the New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT) and the Mid Region Council of Governments (MRCOG), a regional government planning association, while Herzog currently holds the contract for operation and maintnence of the line & equipment. Phase I of the system, operating on an existing right of way from Belen to Bernalillo that NMDOT purchased from BNSF Railway, opened in July 2006. Phase II, the extension of the line to Santa Fe, opened in December 2008.
The concept of passenger rail serving the Central New Mexico corridor had been discussed for decades, but it wasn’t until August 2003, when New Mexico governor Bill Richardson announced that his administration was going to pursue the implementation of commuter rail service, that a serious effort got under way. Later that same year, grants were given to NMDOT and MRCOG to begin the effort, and the New Mexico State Legislature passed Governor Richardson’s Investment Partnership (GRIP), a transportation improvement package with the Rail Runner included as one of the bill's projects.
Over the next few years, NMDOT and MRCOG developed a strategy for implementing rail service. In 2005, a name and a branding scheme was chosen. The name “Rail Runner” is a play on the name of New Mexico’s state bird, the roadrunner. The cars and locomotives were received throughout the year of 2005 and groundbreaking for the first Rail Runner station took place on October 31, 2005. During this time the state also made negotiations with BNSF for usage of the railroad track. After assessing the needs of the track, the state of New Mexico committed to purchasing the railroad corridor from Belen to the New Mexico-Colorado border from BNSF (although, thus far only the portion between Belen and Lamy, NM have been purchased), to ensure that commuter trains would always get the right-of-way and have priority over freight trains in the corridor. While the engines are capable of 110 miles per hour (180 km/h), the track limits the maximum speed to 79 miles per hour (127 km/h).
The Rail Runner officially went into service on July 14, 2006, serving the Downtown Albuquerque, Los Ranchos, and Sandoval County stations. On December 11, 2006, the Los Lunas station opened, and on February 2, 2007, the Belen station opened, extending the line to its southern end. In April 2007, two more stations opened: Bernalillo County/International Sunport on the 20th and Downtown Bernalillo on the 27th. On December 17, 2008, the Isleta Pueblo station opened.
Phase II, the extension of the line to Santa Fe, opened for service on December 17, 2008. Using the existing Santa Fe Southern Railway track from Lamy to Santa Fe, which is filled with sharp curves, would have required the train to slow to 15 miles per hour (24 km/h) in some places, so new tracks were laid to produce travel times comparable to the automobile. The route uses previously existing track from Bernalillo to the base of La Bajada, a hill south of Santa Fe. It then runs on newly built track on new right-of-way from CP Madrid, for five miles and then in the I-25 median into Santa Fe, at CP Hondo, where it uses an improved Santa Fe Southern Railway track from I-25 to the terminal at the Santa Fe Railyard. Two of the planned stations for the Phase II extension opened on December 17: the South Capitol and the Santa Fe Depot stations. A third station at the NM 599/I-25 interchange in Santa Fe County opened on August 1, 2009.
On September 12, 2009, a special events platform opened for Lobo games service only.
Kewa Pueblo station, serving Santo Domingo Pueblo, opened on March 22, 2010. It is the first station beyond the original 13 planned stations to reach the construction stage and was built using stimulus funds.
The central New Mexico corridor, which is home to half the state’s population, contains Santa Fe, the state capital, and Albuquerque, the largest city and economic hub of New Mexico. The two cities are connected by I-25, an increasingly congested four-lane rural freeway that roughly parallels the route of the Rail Runner. Alternate routes are longer or otherwise constraining. Within Albuquerque's metropolitan area the heavily urbanized parts of Valencia county are separated from Albuquerque by Isleta Pueblo. Another four Native American pueblos are traversed by the Interstate Highway to Santa Fe, making the addition of new roadways or the expansion of current capacity financially and politically challenging.
The high real-estate prices in Santa Fe mean that many of the people who work there commute from the Albuquerque metro area. Furthermore, the capital is home to many of the state’s cultural institutions and tourist attractions, and most out-of-state visitors are forced to make the 60-mile journey from the Albuquerque International Sunport by car. As the population of the region grows, commute times are expected to increase 80% on some routes by 2025, making the introduction of additional forms of transportation a priority to local governments.
The cost of the Rail Runner system was $135 million for the first phase and around $250 million for the second phase, Preliminary estimates indicate that the service will operate at a deficit, requiring up to $10 million in government funding annually. In late 2007, the Rail Runner was the subject of more criticism as a transportation funding shortfall left many state road projects stalled. State officials said the rising cost of construction materials and decreased federal support were the cause, but some lawmakers cited the cost of the Rail Runner as a contributing factor for the shortfall. Supporters of Rail Runner funding note that roadways and other infrastructure for passenger cars also operate at a deficit, requiring government funding for construction, operation, and maintenance.
The capital costs of the Rail Runner project were covered by state and local funds. Phase I of the project was set to cost $135 million while Phase II was set to cost $250 million.
Funding for operations of the system in its first few years was covered largely by federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) Program funds, along with ticket revenues and some state and local funds. Operational costs were expected to rise from $10 million for the first phase to $20 million after completion of the second phase.
Federal funding for the Rail Runner is expected to stop in 2009, and without sufficient funds from other sources would leave funding for the operational and maintenance costs for the system up in the air. To prevent a funding shortfall, local and state governments began looking into possible taxes in the counties the Rail Runner serves. Two separate gross receipts taxes for regional transit were approved by voters in central and north-central New Mexico in November 2008 and will cover a large portion of the operational funds of the Rail Runner. Additional funds will also come from bond revenue and money appropriated by the New Mexico State Legislature.
||This section appears to be written like an advertisement. (January 2013)|
On service between Albuquerque and Bernalillo, fares were initially free to attract ridership. On its first day of service, the Rail Runner carried 4,122 passengers. During the initial free period, ridership averaged 4,000 to 4,500 riders per day with a one-day peak of 6,000 riders. Ridership gradually declined during the weeks of free service. Ridership averaged 2,500 to 3,000 riders per day in August 2006, and 2,100 to 2,500 riders per day in September 2006.
In November 2006, free service ended on the line's Sandoval section, and ridership fell to 1,000 passengers per day. When the Los Lunas and Belen stations opened with free service, ridership rose to around 1,800 passengers per day. Free service on the Belen section of the line ended April 1, 2007, and a new zone fare structure went into effect. During the summer of 2007, ridership averaged 2,500 passengers per day. By April 2008, weekly ridership was 9,600. On June 26, 2008, the Rail Runner passed 1,000,000 passengers.
On December 17, 2008, service to Santa Fe started with a three-month period of free service for Santa Fe County residents and three weekends of free service for the whole system. The original 2005 projected ridership for a slightly different (but similar speed) Phase II route to Santa Fe was 2,954 daily riders. During the first full week of train service between the two cities, more than 33,000 passengers boarded. On the second Saturday of service to Santa Fe, nearly 12,000 people boarded trains between Belen and Santa Fe Weekend service, which was to be discontinued after the first three weekends of service to Santa Fe, was instead partly retained, with permanent Saturday service. Ridership for the first few weeks of Santa Fe service averaged about 5,000 riders per day, then dropped to an average of around 4,000 riders per day for the month of January 2009. In June 2009 daily average ridership was 4,500 passengers.
March 2011 saw the highest number of Rail Runner riders for that month since the train service started, with 117,081 one-way trips. Average weekday ridership rose 13% from the prior March, rising from 3,948 in March 2010 to 4,471. Average weekend ridership rose 32% from the prior March, rising from 2,705 in March 2010 to 3,560. For the first quarter of 2011, ridership was up by 2% over 2010, with 286,692 one-way trips.
Currently, the Rail Runner operates on weekdays with four Albuquerque–Santa Fe roundtrips, four Belen–Santa Fe roundtrips and three Belen-Albuquerque roundtrips, on Saturdays with four Belen-Santa Fe roundtrips and one Belen-Albuquerque roundtrip, and on Sundays with three Belen-Santa Fe roundtrips. On weekdays, most trains run during the peak commuting periods, with extra trains running mid-day and in the evening. There is also some additional service for special events (Balloon Fiesta, holiday season, etc.), including limited service to a "special events platform" on Commercial Avenue beneath Avenida Cesar Chavez for Lobos and Isotopes athletic events.
The cost of Rail Runner tickets is based upon the number of zones traveled. Tickets are purchased either online from the Rail Runner website or from attendants with hand-held devices on the train after boarding. Day, monthly, and annual passes are available. Children under the age of 10 ride for free. Regular one-way fares are as follows:
- Within one zone: $2.00
- Within two zones: $2.00
- Within three zones: $4.00
- Within four zones: $6.00
- Within five zones: $7.00
- Within six zones: $8.00
Reduced fares for seniors, students, and the disabled are as follows:
- Within one zone: $1.00
- Within two zones: $1.00
- Within three zones: $2.00
- Within four zones: $3.00
- Within five zones: $3.00
- Within six zones: $4.00
Rolling stock 
The Rail Runner power includes nine Motive Power MPI MP36PH-3C diesel-electric locomotives that operate on diesel fuel. The use of biodiesel fuel is under investigation. Passenger cars include thirteen Bombardier BiLevel Coaches and nine Bombardier BiLevel Cab cars. Coach cars have a seating capacity of 151 passengers while cab cars have a seating capacity of 141 passengers, with each type of car having standing room for an additional 60. Rail Runner trains operate in a push-pull configuration, with the locomotive always facing south. When not in use, the vehicles are stored in a railyard in Downtown Albuquerque, located across the main rail line from the Alvarado Transportation Center.
The AAR reporting mark for the Rail Runner Express is NMRX. Locomotives have three-digit road numbers beginning with the numeral 1 (e.g., 101). Coaches have four-digit road numbers beginning with the numeral 1 (e.g., 1001). Cab cars have four-digit road numbers beginning with 11 (e.g., 1101). Restrooms and water fountains are available in the cab cars. Bicycle and wheelchair locks are on the first level of all coaches.
The livery of the New Mexico Rail Runner depicts a stylistic roadrunner on the locomotive and trailing tailfeathers on the coaches. The door closing tones resemble the signature “Beep-Beep” of the Warner Bros. Road Runner cartoon character.
|Motive Power, Inc.||MPI MP36PH-3C diesel-electric locomotive||9||101-109|
|Bombardier Transportation||Bombardier BiLevel Coach||13||1001–1013|
|Bombardier Transportation||Bombardier BiLevel Cab cars||9||1101–1109|
The Rail Runner connects with Amtrak and Greyhound Lines at Downtown Albuquerque. New Mexico Park and Ride shuttles connect the Downtown Albuquerque station to Moriarty, the NM 599 station to Los Alamos and southern Santa Fe, and the South Capitol station in Santa Fe to the communities of Los Alamos, Espanola, and Las Vegas. Park & Ride passengers with a monthly pass get to ride the Rail Runner for free.
There are connections to numerous ABQRide routes (including Rapid Ride) in Downtown Albuquerque as well as ABQRide routes at the Los Ranchos/Journal Center and Bernalillo County/International Sunport stations. ABQRide offers free service to anyone who shows their Rail Runner ticket. In Santa Fe, Santa Fe Trails' bus routes, a city government shuttle, and a Department of Transportation shuttle provide local connections at the South Capitol and Santa Fe Depot stations on which Rail Runner passengers also receive free transfers.
There are also a number of smaller shuttle services serving the Rail Runner: a shuttle to Socorro and through Belen serves the Belen station, Los Lunas Public Transportation serves the Los Lunas station, the Sandoval Easy Express serves the two stations in Bernalillo, the University of New Mexico has a dedicated shuttle connecting its main campus to the Downtown Albuquerque station, a shuttle to Taos serves the Santa Fe Depot and South Capitol stations, and Santa Ana Pueblo, Isleta Pueblo, and Pojoaque Pueblo each operate shuttles connecting their casinos to the nearest Rail Runner station.
Stations under development 
One additional station has proceeded to the construction stage. Construction of the platform at the Zia Road station, the last of the four planned stations for Phase II, is complete but the station has yet to open due to issues with the adjacent land.
Possible future stations 
Other stations may be added in the future. A station has been proposed by tribal leaders and state government in San Felipe Pueblo. The Environmental Assessment for Phase II considered placement of a station between Cerrillos Road and Richards Avenue in the I-25 Median; it concluded that there was not yet enough demand, but recommended that it be considered for the future. Currently, a proposed station near the Las Soleras development has been approved and is now under study. MRCOG is looking into building a new station in Albuquerque on Montaño Road, which lies between the current Downtown Albuquerque and the Los Ranchos/Journal Center stations. The proposed station is included on MRCOG's 2030 Metropolitan Transportation Plan, an environmental review of the site has been completed, and funding has been secured for the station.
Possible expansion 
An extension northward to Taos has been discussed, however a memorial to study the feasibility of doing so died in the 2009 New Mexico State Legislative Session. There is now a shuttle service from Taos to the Santa Fe Rail Runner stations.
Extension of the Rail Runner south to Las Cruces and El Paso has also been discussed. A memorial to study the feasibility of such service was introduced and was amended to study Las Cruces-El Paso service, but failed to pass in the New Mexico Legislature. A house resolution was introduced by Congressman Harry Teague in May 2009 to study the concept. However, this resolution never came out of committee and by default was cleared from the Congressional books.
In 2007, on April 5, a northbound train ran through a wildfire on the Isleta Pueblo reservation. No one was hurt and no equipment was damaged, but officials soon tried to find out why no one received notification of the blaze until the incident actually occurred. On the evening of August 24, a southbound train hit a vehicle at a private grade crossing south of Los Lunas. Two people in the vehicle were killed. No one aboard the train was injured. It appears that the Rail Runner personnel followed procedure. On the evening of September 19, a southbound train hit a vehicle at a private grade crossing between Belen and Los Lunas. One person in the vehicle was killed.
In 2008, during the early evening of May 14, in an apparent suicide, a man was killed after being struck by the Rail Runner as he was sitting on the tracks. On the evening of December 17, the inaugural day of service to Santa Fe, a southbound Rail Runner train struck a cow near San Felipe Pueblo.
In 2009, on the morning of March 10, a southbound Rail Runner train struck an abandoned car in the South Valley. On August 18, a northbound train was struck by a car which drove into the side of the train; the driver was killed.
In 2010, on March 22, an unscheduled stop was made by a Rail Runner crew to pick up some food at a fast food restaurant. The train was not carrying passengers at the time. On December 17, a northbound Rail Runner struck and killed a man.
In 2011, on February 2 and 3 due to very cold temperatures (-18F) tracks cracked and needed to be repaired. This caused restricted speeds and significant delays.
- Dickens, Matthew (Third Quarter 2011). "Commuter Rail Public Transportation Ridership Report" (PDF). American Public Transportation Association. p. 5. Retrieved December 13, 2011.
- News Release on Rail Runner website
- "Rail Runner Express Gets Rollin' for the First Time on Trial Trip". The Albuquerque Journal. 2006-04-19. Retrieved 2009-04-25.
- Commuter Rail Status Report: "Belen to Santa Fe Commuter Rail Overview"
- "Rail Runner Route to Santa Fe" page on Rail Runner website
- "New Mexico Rail Runner Express Completes Lobo Special Events Platform". UNM Today. Retrieved 2009-09-12.
- "NM Rail Runner opening new station". Retrieved 2010-03-22.
- "Sandia Pueblo Rail Runner Stop Opens". Retrieved 2011-10-05.
- Commuter Rail Status Report: "Transportation Issues in the Albuquerque to Santa Fe Corridor"
- Commuter Rail Status Report: "Regional Context" and "Transportation Issues in the Middle Rio Grande Valley"
- Funding page on Rail Runner website
- "Train Debate Ignores I-25 Funding Needs". Albuquerque Journal. Retrieved 2006-11-18.
- "Lack of funds has N.M. road projects on hold". Albuquerque Tribune. Retrieved 2007-12-08.
- "Why light rail makes sense". Socorro News. Retrieved 2008-01-21.
- "A referendum on the Rail Runner". New Mexico Independent. Retrieved 2008-09-02.
- "Transit tax passes in 7 New Mexico counties". MSN Money. Retrieved 2008-11-05.
- "Story: Stats don't faze train managers". Albuquerque Tribune. Retrieved 2006-11-18.
- "Fewer people are riding the Rail Runner for fun". Albuquerque Tribune. Retrieved 2006-11-18.
- "Gas Prices Increase Rail Runner Ridership". KKOB News Radio. Retrieved 2008-04-30.
- "Rail Runner celebrates 1 million riders". KOB-TV. Retrieved 2009-06-26.
- http://www.nmrailrunner.com/PDF/Alternatives%20Analysis%20Executive%20Summary.pdf "(2005) Alternatives Analysis Executive Summary"
- "Rail Runner Ridership Down". Albuquerque Journal. Retrieved 2009-01-27.
- "Rail Runner to reach 2 million rider mark". KKOB TV. Retrieved 2009-06-02.
- Train Schedule on Rail Runner website
- Weekend Train Schedule on Rail Runner website
- Tickets page on Rail Runner website
- Train Equipment page on Rail Runner website
- Car Specifications on Rail Runner website
- Draft Park & Ride schedules on New Mexico DOT website
- Bus Connections page on Rail Runner website
- "Zia Road Station" page on Rail Runner website
- "Santa Fe Station Locations" page on Rail Runner website
- Proposed Rail Runner Station at Las Soleras
- "Rail Runner Express averages 2,000 riders per day". Albuquerque Tribune. Retrieved 2008-02-02.
- 2030 Metropolitan Transportation Plan: Public Transportation (page 11)
- Rail Runner: Montano Station
- "Albuquerque awarded $6.7M for transit center". New Mexico Business Weekly. July 8, 2010. Retrieved 2010-07-27.
- New Mexico Legislature - House Joint Memorial 22
- New Mexico Legislature - House Joint Memorial 26
- H.R. 2337: Southwestern Transit Corridor Planning and Fuel Use Reduction Act
- "Railroad fire plan not followed". KRQE News 13. Retrieved 2007-04-15.
- "Siblings die in Rail Runner collision". KRQE News 13. Retrieved 2007-08-25.
- "Senior Citizen dies in Rail Runner collision". KRQE News 13. Retrieved 2007-10-20.
- "Suicide suspected in Rail Runner fatality". KOB TV 4. Retrieved 2008-05-13.
- "Delays, struck cow mark Rail Runner's first day, but riders optimistic". Santa Fe New Mexican. Retrieved 2008-12-17.
- "Train collides with abandoned car". KOB-TV. Retrieved 2009-03-10.
- "Man Killed In Collision With Railrunner Train". KOAT-TV. Retrieved 2009-09-12.
- "Rail Runner strikes, kills man walking along tracks". KOB-TV. Retrieved 2010-12-17.
- "Sub-zero temps crack rails, delay Rail Runner trains". Santa Fe New Mexican. Retrieved 2011-02-04.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: New Mexico Rail Runner Express|
- Rail Runner homepage
- Mid-Region Council of Governments homepage
- New Mexico Department of Transportation