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Rail Runner Ridership Down

By Lloyd Jojola
Journal Staff Writer
       Weekday Rail Runner ridership has dipped by about 1,000 a day since Jan. 5 — the post-holiday season — but operators say a true gauge of daily use probably won't emerge for some time.
    Daily passenger boarding numbers provided by the Mid-Region Council of Governments also show, as might be expected, that the stations at Downtown Albuquerque, Los Ranchos/Journal Center, Sandoval County/U.S. 550 and the two in Santa Fe are the most used. The numbers also show that on weekdays this month, there are close to 90 bicycle boardings a day.
    With the Santa Fe leg of service opening Dec. 17, passenger traffic on the train ballooned, particularly on the weekends when Saturday and Sunday service was free until Jan. 4.
    Weekday ridership also was as brisk during that time.
    From Dec. 17 to Jan. 2, weekday passenger boardings totaled 50,919, or an average of 5,092 a day, according to Council of Governments data. Weekdays when no service was provided, such as Christmas or New Year's, were not factored into the average.
    Afterward, from Jan. 5 to 16, weekday passenger boardings averaged 3,919 a day.
    The results aren't a shock.
    "A lot of people were using the train to try it out during that holiday period," said Chris Blewett, Rail Runner project manager. "I think it's going to be awhile before we really are in a position to say, 'OK, we've got a pretty well-established pattern of ridership.' "
    The current period is typically the lowest point of the year for mass transit ridership, Blewett said. Cooler temperatures and an earlier sunset affect public transportation use, he said.
    ABQ Ride officials have noted the same trend.
    A more established ridership number has yet to exist also because only two of the four planned Santa Fe stations have opened, train operators say.
    The state recently announced that construction of a station where N.M. 559 meets Interstate 25 is scheduled to start this week. There is no specific opening date for the Zia Road station.

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