Rail Runner ridership continued to fall over the last year.
Recent data from Rio Metro, which operates the rail line from Santa Fe to Albuquerque and points south, show the number of riders slid by 6 percent over the previous 12 months.
An annual report from Rio Metro attributes the continued decline in ridership to several factors — including gas prices that rose heading into the summer but have since subsided, and the state’s low rate of population growth. Meanwhile, the state government — a major employer in the area — has a smaller workforce than it did in the recent past.
“When those state jobs were eliminated, we lost some people,” said Rio Metro spokeswoman Augusta Meyers.
The system remains hemmed in by its lack of a direct connection to the Albuquerque airport as well as its limited service on Sundays.
Meyers noted that while the agency will continue to offer promotional deals, particularly for special events that might draw new riders, it does not have the resources to significantly expand service.
“We’re going to be in that Catch-22 until the economy improves,” she said.
Passengers made a total of 787,116 trips on Rail Runner Express from July 2017 to June 2018. That was down from the previous 12 months, when passengers made 835,561 trips. And the year before, the service logged about 887,000 trips.
October, which includes the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, ranked again as the busiest month on the rail line. February proved quietest.
The rail line, which went into service in 2008 and has come with a price tag of hundreds of millions of dollars, has long been controversial.
The state refinanced debt on the system earlier this year, avoiding a major financial hit in the short term. But the system faces a federal mandate this year to install a new safety system at a cost previously estimated at tens of millions of dollars.