The New Mexico Rail Runner Express is a 100-mile commuter rail system that provides service for those traveling north and south between Santa Fe and Belen. The network serves mainly as a commuter option, but many use the train to travel on weekends and holidays. Train service is offered during morning and evening rush hours, with limited times in between. The system has thirteen stations along the Rio Grande corridor, and though Saturday and Sunday service is also available, travel times are limited.
The Rail Runner is operated by the New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT) and the Mid Region Council of Governments (MRCOG). At each of the stations, buses help travelers make connections to destinations, eliminating the need for a car.
Riding the Rail Runner makes travel simple and easy. It's an affordable way to commute if your destination is near the stations, or within reach of the connecting bus lines. Taking the train from Albuquerque to Santa Fe for a day of sightseeing and shopping is a popular way to spend school holidays.
Passenger cars have two stories; children especially enjoy looking out the windows from the upper level of the car. Some cars have tables, making it easy to work on a laptop, and trains are outfitted with wifi. Families and groups often gather together around a common table seating area.
Other amenities include Quiet Cars, available on some weekday trains. Commuters can enjoy the quiet or do work without interruptions from cell phone use or loud conversations.
All the stations have canopies, seating areas, and lighting. Most stations have free parking. Stations and platforms are wheelchair accessible. Each of the stations has a "kiss and ride" area, where drop offs near the platform are available.
Tickets can be purchased online or on the train. Credit cards can be used, with a valid photo I.D.
Seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis. When traveling during school holidays and weekends, keep that in mind, and arrive early at the station to ensure you get a good seat.
Tickets are non-refundable and non-transferable.
Purchasing online is the way to go if at all possible, as day passes are given $1 off and monthly or annual passes get $10 off.
Mobile e-tickets are accepted on the train. In early 2014, mobile e-tickets for the bus became available as well.
The Rail Runner Express operates on a zone-based fare system, where the cost of a ticket is determined by the distance traveled. Six zones exist, and fares can be calculated based on the number of zones it takes to get to your destination. For example, traveling from downtown Albuquerque to the Santa Fe Depot is five zones, so the fare would be $9 for a one way trip or $10 for a day pass (round trip). Purchasing the ticket online, the fare would be $9.
Reduced fares are available to senior citizens 62 and older; students with a valid I.D.; people who show a Medicare card; and people with disabilities who show a disability notification from the Department of Motor Vehicles, a letter from the doctor (with expiration date), an ABQ RIDE Honored Citizen card or a Disabled Veteran I.D. card.
Children 9 and under ride free.
Bus lines in Albuquerque that connect to the Rail Runner come in from all parts of the city. Any bus route that begins with a "2" connects to the Rail Runner. In Sandoval County, Rio Metro has several bus routes that connect to the Rail Runner Express. Bus lines can be found in Bernalillo, Enchanted Hills, Santo Domingo, Cochiti Pueblo, Cochiti Lake, and Jemez Springs.
Rio Metro passengers in Los Lunas and Belen in Valencia County can take a fixed bus route to the train. For those not along the bus routes in Valencia County, Dial-a-Ride operates Monday through Friday from 4:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Passengers call the Rio Metro Valencia by noon the day prior to their travel, and can be picked up at their homes.
Travelers coming in to the Albuquerque Airport can take the airport shuttle to the Rail Runner station from which they want to arrive or depart. The shuttles and buses are free if the Rail Runner ticket is purchased in advance online. If the ticket isn't pre-purchased, the airport shuttle is $1 each way. Travelers can ride back to the airport from one of the Rail Runner stations.
The shuttle is available Monday through Friday. Saturdays, ABQ Ride Route 50 runs between 9:45 a.m. and 6:45 p.m. Sunday service is not available.
Shuttles are available for a limited number of pickup times through the day.
Packages and Promotions
Riding the Rail Runner can have its perks. Hotel packages available throughout the corridor provide discount hotel packages that include the rail ticket, dinner or a spa package. Many high end hotels in Santa Fe, Albuquerque and Taos participate.
The Rail Runner offers tours and packages that provide insights into the areas along the line. Take a Saturday tour of Belen, Los Lunas and Tome, offered twice a month. In Santa Fe, enjoy a Canyon Road gallery tour that includes a lunch and dinner, a visit to 14 galleries, and more. Other tours are in the planning stages.