New Mexico is a state that clearly understands the value of passenger rail. The state’s biggest success story is the initiation of New Mexico Rail Runner Express, a 97-mile, 15-station regional railroad serving Albuquerque, Santa Fe and nearby towns. Average monthly passenger volume on Rail Runner Express is up 113% since June 2007, the first month for which such data is available. And Amtrak ridership in New Mexico is up 38.5% since 2003, ranking it right in the middle of all the states for ridership growth over that time period, at #25.
First, let’s take a look at Rail Runner Express Ridership.
The surge in ridership beginning in December 2008 corresponds to the opening of Phase II, the extension from Albuquerque north to Santa Fe. Rail Runner Express has been steadily opening up new stations since the railroad opened for business on July 14, 2006, with just three stations: Albuquerque, Los Ranchos/Journal Center, and Sandoval County/U.S. 550. Here’s a timeline:
- December 11, 2006: Los Lunas opened.
- Feb. 2, 2007: Belen opened.
- April 20, 2007: Bernalillo County/International Sunport opened.
- April 27, 2007: Downtown Bernalillo opened.
- December 17, 2008: Phase II opened, with three new stops: Isleta Pueblo, Santa Fe Depot, and South Capitol.
- August 1, 2009: Santa Fe County / N.M. 599 opened.
- March 22, 2010: Kewa Pueblo opened.
- August 29, 2011: Sandia Pueblo opened.
- April 7, 2014: Montano opened.
Still forthcoming, one hopes, is Zia Road. Albuquerque is Rail Runner Express’ main hub, and it is an interchange station for Amtrak’s Southwest Chief, which travels across the state once each day in each direction, connecting Los Angeles with Chicago via Kansas City. The Southwest Chief accounts for nearly all of the Amtrak ridership in New Mexico. But there are also two stations, Lordsburg and Deming, that are on the Sunset Limited & Texas Eagle. This pie chart shows the overall distribution of Amtrak passengers in New Mexico.
This line graph shows the growing number of passengers using these stations.
Gallup is the state’s fastest-growing station, with a growth rate of 150%, to 16,140 passengers in 2014, up from 6,454 in 2003. Las Vegas grew by 85%, to 5,047 in 2014, from 2,726 in 2003, Lordsburg grew by 71%, to 729 in 2014 from 426 in 2003, Deming by 55% to 1,338 in 2014 from 862 in 2003, and Albuquerque by 52%, to 77,021 in 2014, from 50,534 in 2003. Meanwhile, Lamy decreased by 3%, to 11,655 passengers in 2014, down from 12,050 in 2003, and Raton slipped by 18%, to 15,875 in 2014, from 19,255 in 2003. This stacked column chart shows the effect of all of the above on the full state’s ridership.