Rail Runner to add more trains and extend fare cut until year's end - Albuquerque Journal

Rail Runner to add more trains and extend fare cut until year’s end

State employees gets ready to board a southbound Rail Runner train at Santa Fe’s South Capitol Station in this recent file photo. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced Wednesday a 75% fare reduction will be extended through the end of this year. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – With gas prices still hovering at wallet-busting levels around New Mexico, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced Wednesday that a 75% fare reduction for the Rail Runner commuter train enacted in April will be extended through the end of this year.

In addition, two additional midday trains – going both north and south – will be added to both the weekday and the Saturday schedules starting next month in a bid to provide more public transit options for people traveling for recreation or commuting during non-traditional hours.

“Like the rest of the country, New Mexicans are dealing with higher prices – especially at the pump,” Lujan Grisham said in a statement. “This is one way we are helping to alleviate some of that burden for working families. We are very excited to offer more flexibility and convenience for Santa Fe and Albuquerque area commuters.”

Under the reduced rates, the cost of traveling between Albuquerque and Santa Fe on the commuter train has dropped to $2.50 for a day pass and to $27.50 for a monthly pass, but the initial fare reduction had been scheduled to expire at the end of this month.

Meanwhile, the cost of extending the fare reduction for at least the next five months will depend on ridership levels, said Nora Meyers Sackett, a spokeswoman for Lujan Grisham. The cost of the initial three-plus months of reduced fares was estimated at $400,000 to $500,000.

The state Department of Transportation will pay for a portion of that cost, with the Rio Metro Regional Transit District, which operates the Rail Runner train that connects Belen to Santa Fe, picking up the bulk of the expense, Sackett said.

Top officials with Rio Metro said recently they were looking at ways to better serve passengers as high gas prices continue to wallop New Mexicans.

While Rail Runner ridership still lags far below prepandemic levels, there has been an uptick in passengers in recent months. Specifically, the 39,031 riders in June was more than double the 19,127 riders in June 2021.

Some state government Cabinet secretaries have recently pushed to get employees back in the office after two-plus years of remote work, and the revised train schedule could provide additional options for workers.

“We believe the new train schedule with added service will accommodate the changing workday that many commuters are now experiencing, and also offer more options for shorter trips – which is something people have been wanting for years,” said Dewey Cave, executive director of Rio Metro.

The initial rate reduction announcement came after a request by the Governor’s Office to appropriate $1 million to reduce Rail Runner ticket prices was rejected by the Legislature during an April special session.

At the time, several lawmakers pointed out that Rio Metro received large amounts of federal pandemic relief funds and should be able to reduce ticket prices without additional state funding.

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