NM Rail Runner

18July2015

Here's my Jersey on the NM Rail Runner. 

WHAT'S YOUR PROBLEM?
In a July 2015 KOAT report Rail Runner Express Celebrating 9-Year Anniversary it states that the Rail Runner is dealing with low ridership and $50 million in safety upgrades.  It was also noted that people wanted more leisure travel.

Here is a four–year–old July 2011 editorial about the Rail Runner in the Albuquerque Journal, which represented the views of the newspaper itself. The paper laid out the financial picture of the Rail Runner pretty well.

Regardless if we keep the Rail Runner or not, it looks like the state is into a $843.3M bill through 2027; an average of about $42M per year for the entire life of the note. It also costs $25M per year to operate and maintain the Rail Runner, all of which means that we have been paying and will continue to pay an average of about $67M per year until 2027. After that it drops to $25M per year for the life of the Rail Runner.

So keep the Rail Runner and pay an average of $67M per year until 2027, then $25M per year after that, or get rid of the Rail Runner and pay an average of $42M per year until 2027, then $0M per year after that. No matter what we do, the NM taxpayer is going to have to pay something for the Rail Runner until 2027, even if we got rid of it. Just great. Sounds like a typical government operation, huh?

So what to do? The Journal's editorial board basically could see two options for the beleaguered train:
  • Option A: Raise fares. This would most certainly turn people away, so the actual revenues from the Rail Runner would fall short. Ouch.
  • Option B: Raise taxes. This would most certainly make people mad, so the actual existence of the Rail Runner would be in doubt. Double ouch.
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YOU WANT THE SOLUTION OR WHAT?
Neither of these options are very appealing. So how about a drumroll, along with:
  • Option C: Give the Rail Runner (and all the bills that go with it) to all the casinos in the state (Option C. Option Casino. Get it? C? Casino? Oh, never mind.). This would most certainly make people very happy, and the actual coolness of the Rail Runner would vastly increase. Sweet!
We could begin by setting up a rail "corridor" stretching from Taos to Albuquerque, with a total of 10 casino stops to start with (see map below). Naturally, it will be called El Corredor de Casino ("The Casino Corridor"), with the Rail Runner used to ferry people to their establishments for concerts, special events, a night on the town, etc. You gotta problem with that?

El Corredor de Casino. All locations approximate. Map image courtesy Google Maps.

The Rail Runner would now have entertainment as its primary focus, instead of commuting.

Here are even some back-of-the-envelope marketing ideas:
  • Hey casino customers across the USA: don't go to Las Vegas. Come to El Corredor de Casino, where we have 10 casinos with a stylish and comfortable ride to each place. Attention tourism department: you have my permission to steal this idea.
  • Every casino will now have a Rail Runner station, and shuttles can transport people from the Rail Runner station to the casino and back.
  • Have Rail Runner cars that run exclusively for concert goers. Concert goers avoid traffic and get in and out hassle free. Imagine a Rail Runner train from Santa Fe to the Hard Rock Pavilion and back. Hey, even more Rail Runner customers!
  • Allow gambling in certain (or all) cars on the Rail Runner.
  • Allow rentals of Rail Runner cars for private parties, etc.
  • Imagine the NM Texas Hold 'Em Championships at the 10 casinos!
  • Imagine the Bingo Cars!!
  • The early and late trains could stop only between Los Lunas, Belen, Albuquerque, and Santa Fe for all the government workers commuting to Santa Fe and back.
  • Another corridor could eventually be built running East-West from Gallup to Albuquerque, adding 4 more casinos to the mix (Fire Rock Navajo Casino, Sky City Casino Hotel, Dancing Eagle Casino, and Route 66 Casino Hotel). This also solves the other problem mentioned in the editorial of increased traffic congestion in Albuquerque that is going East-West.
  • Is there a casino near Spaceport America? Why not? That would be an awesome stop along El Corredor de Casino, wouldn't it?
  • By doing the previous 2 bullet items above, that increases the number of casinos to 15, which is 50% more!
  • All the casinos share in the cost of running the Rail Runner.
That last bullet item is pretty important. Let's see. At $67M per year, and 10 casinos initially sharing the costs, that's $6.7M per year for each casino to operate the Rail Runner until 2027. After that, it's $25M divided by the 10 casinos, which comes out to about $2.5M per year. I'm sure the casinos would be able to cover these expenses fairly easily. And as the number of casinos involved increase to the full 28, the cost per casino obviously goes down.

One of the (intended) consequences of Option C is that we reduce the number of drunk drivers on the road! Here's the idea: if someone wanted to go to a concert, and wanted to have a few drinks there, they now cannot drive. Problem solved with El Corredor de Casino: they take a taxi to the train station, and ride in style and comfort to and from the concert, and then take a taxi home from the train station. So after a big concert, how many drunk drivers have we now pulled off the road, huh? It just takes a little political courage, that's all.

Now that's how you run with the Rail Runner in NM. How 'bout youse guys?

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