Friday, April 17, 2009

Other thoughts from Albuquerque 

Anyone who is contemplating the pricing of fares on Northstar should come look at the Rail Runner between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. �Open less than six months, the train carries traffic between cities about 60 miles apart and takes about 90 minutes. �When I rode up to Santa Fe this morning at 10:30 for lunch, more than half the people on the train were clearly tourists; I thought this was a waste of taxpayer money to buy me, a nonresident, a cheap ride. �But the 4pm train back to Albuquerque was full of commuters who live not in the bigger city but in northern suburbs around Sandoval and Bernalillo. �The train may have been at 70% capacity at its peak ridership. �My ride was $8 round trip, much cheaper than contemplated for Northstar. �

I'm not a transportation specialist, but I'm willing to speculate that the demand for urban rail is elastic, so higher prices decrease quantity demanded greatly. �If so, would the fares being discussed for Northstar be too high? �It seemed to me and my colleague with whom I traveled that there was enough fare on that afternoon train to more than cover the variable cost of the train. �But the question is whether the benefits of less congestion, emission, etc., are enough to warrant the $385 million spent on the route. �

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