ALVARADO STATION--The inaugural run of the New Mexico Rail Runner from Albuquerque to Belen was full of important people and those connected with some aspect of the rail project. But the real face of event has to be this UNM student waiting for the train at Alvarado Station downtown. I had seen her get on the RapidRide at UNM on her way downtown...and now here she was, unwrapping a slice of cold pizza while waiting for the southbound Rail Runner.
She lives in Los Chavez. Every morning her folks take her to the train station in Los Lunas. She rides up to ABQ...hops on the RapidRide to UNM...goes to class...and then takes the same bus downtown and the 12:32 train back to Los Lunas.
She is the future of Rail Runner: a real person whose needs are being met perfectly with mass transit systems. UNM is notorious for its lack of parking. This is the perfect solution.
In fact, UNM should consider subsidizing students who buy bus and train passes. After all, even their remote parking lots are filled to capacity. They should also do what they can for bicyclists, starting with a better connector to the Noreste bike path north of the campus.
I was touched at the ceremony when the train made its first stop in Belen. After the usual ribbon cutting ceremony I noticed a man in back of me had taken out his jack knife and was cutting up pieces of the ribbon and passing them out to his extended family. Yes, this train IS that important for this community.
And as the train backed up to start its return north to ABQ (remember the train runs 'backwards' going north), I couldn't help but think about how many stories and memories the Rail Runner service is going to generate...students, shoppers, adventurers, tourists, working commuters.
Here's to the New Riders of the Purple Sage!
Btw, in case you missed it, I wrote a companion piece about the Belen - ABQ Doodlebug for the Duke City Fix.