Railroaded by Economics

Rail Runner Express #108

Economics tends to be an arcane science that few understand. But, occasionally the 'real world' provides a clear example of economics in action. For instance; ridership on the New Mexico Rail Runner Express. This February the Rail Runner Express raised weekend fares at the same time they cut two trips from the Saturday schedule. In October, it was announced that NM Rail Runner traffic was down by nearly 11%. Here's the punchline - the ridership loss was from the weekend schedule.

In the January 29, 2010 issue of the Santa Fe New Mexican:
  'On the weekends, passengers will pay the same fare as weekday riders. Until now, it had been $2 cheaper per (round) trip to ride on Saturdays and Sundays from Albuquerque to Santa Fe. On Saturdays, early and late trains will be eliminated.'

From KRQE.com on Monday, 04 Oct 2010:
  'Ridership on the New Mexico Rail Runner Express is down over 10 percent from this time a year ago. ... Rail Runner officials said the decline can be attributed to a drop off in weekend ridership, not weekday commuters. ... Rail Runner also raised fares in February and cut down on the number of weekend trains.'

So, if you were wondering how to kill mass transit the NM Rail Runner Express has provided an example. The cost increase may have been unavoidable -
  'The move to raise weekday fares — by $1 on a one-way ticket — is to meet a Federal Transit Administration rule and is unrelated to the budget shortfall'.
But, the fare increase and elimination of two Saturday trains had a completely understandable result - fewer people on the train.

So, if the NM Rail Runner Express wants to increase ridership what could they do? My modest proposal is for MRCOG (the gov. entity that manages the Rail Runner) to find a way to expand the train schedule. Personally, the only thing stopping me from riding the Rail Runner more often is the paltry schedule, not the price of a ticket.

In the meantime, thanks for the economics lesson.

More Info

KRQE.com - Rail Runner ridership down from 2009

Santa Fe New Mexican - Rail Runner to boost fares over shortfall

NM Rail Runner Express

Mid Region Council of Governments (MRCOG)