Day Tripping the Rail Runner Express

Rail Runner Express Train at the Santa Fe South Capitol Station at night

A commuter rail system can be a wonderful thing for a community. But, what if your commute doesn't match the rail line? Well, it can be a great way to visit other towns for shopping, recreating and site-seeing. My wife and I decided to take the Rail Runner from Santa Fe to explore Albuquerque last Friday. We weren't the only ones with that idea.

As the Zia Road Station near our home isn't open yet, we drove to the next closest station at South Capitol. The platform filled with other Santa Feans waiting for the #509 train headed to Albuquerque. Chatting with our neighbors we found that many people were there to 'try-out' the train and explore Albuquerque. The train arrived on-time and stopped at the edge of the platform until everyone moved off of the yellow safety strip lining the platform (New Mexicans are still learning the finer points of mass transit). We stepped aboard a jam-packed train and managed to find a single free seat on the second level. I stood for the entire south-bound trip but the views and company were great.

We arrived at the Downtown Albuquerque / Alvarado Station on time and were kindly directed to the ABQ RIDE Route 66 Bus Stop. The bus delivered us to Old Town Albuquerque via Central Ave. quickly and easily. After lunch in an Old Town cafe we walked over to the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science. Hours of exploring volcanoes, dinosaurs and computers (Microsoft and the Altair personal computer were born in Albuquerque) slipped by in a flash. A quick walk back to the bus stop and we were at the downtown station in 10 minutes. The ride back to Santa Fe was quiet, uneventful, and had room for everyone to sit.

Our day trip to Albuquerque was great. The ride was smooth and fast, and the train is clean. I was also pleasantly surprised by several Albuquerqueans who helped point complete strangers in the right direction. The best part of the whole trip is that I didn't have to drive an hour or more each way to spend the day in Albuquerque!

Unfortunately, regular weekend service is not on the regular Rail Runner Express schedule yet. Hopefully, three weekends of jam-packed trains between Albuquerque and Santa Fe will convince the Mid-Region Council of Governments (the agency in charge of the Rail Runner) to run a Saturday and Sunday schedule.

Update (Jan. 8, 2009):
The Rail Runner now has a regular Saturday Schedule! While it's not a full weekend yet, continued Saturday ridership should encourage a Sunday schedule.

More Info:

NM Rail Runner - Discounts for Online Tickets

New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science - Rail Runner looks into weekend service to S.F.

Mid-Region Council of Governments