“Good morning passengers,” a familiar voice rang out of the public address system. “This is Diane Denish, your Lieutenant Governor, joining you on your journey to Santa Fe.”
I had decided to take the train to Santa Fe to attend a meeting, rather than driving my car. My only other experience on the Rail Runner was strictly for pleasure. Today I was going to be a commuter on the third day that service was extended to Santa Fe.
Not being sure about the parking situation, I arrived at the Journal Center station fifteen minutes before the train was due to make its stop. I was able to get a parking place at the eastern edge of the parking lot. Clearly, the parking lot will need to expand as more people take advantage of the convenience. I kept snug in the car for ten minutes and then sauntered over to the station.
A man who appeared to be an old hand on day three was telling another waiting passenger that the train was quite late on the first day because of switching problems. At that time of the morning, most people appeared to be heading to work or attend to business in Santa Fe.
Right on schedule, the Rain Runner’s whistle signaled its approach. I boarded and took a seat on the lower level. Right at 7:45 a.m. the train started up again and we were off, and in a few minutes were pulling into the south Bernalillo station.
After leaving the northern Bernalillo station, the conductor reminded us that most of the remainder of way would be on Indian reservation land and that taking photographs was strictly prohibited.
I had watched the construction of the track over the past year. After traveling through San Felipe and Santo Domingo pueblos, the tracks pass under the freeway and curve around the east side of La Bajada. When it circled back, we were traveling between the freeway lanes until just before St. Francis.
Throughout the trip I kept looking up from the paper to admire the fresh snow on the Sandias and the Ortiz mountains – a view I never tire of. However, when I drive the car, the views are furtive. With ‘hands-free’ travel, I could look to my hearts content.
By time we pulled into the South Capitol station, I had finished reading the newspaper and disembarked thoroughly relaxed. Frank from the DDPC was waiting for me and drove me to his office for the meeting. As we wound our way down Pacheco, I realized it would be an easy walk. There is also a shuttle that probably goes within a couple of blocks of that office.
“Ill take you back to the station,” Doris offered after the meeting was over.
“Thanks, but I can walk,” I responded. “If I ride with you to the station, I’ll just have to sit on a cold bench and wait. I might as well be walking.”
As I was leaving the building, someone else tried to entice me to let her drive me to the station. Everyone seemed incredulous that I was walking.
“I walk lots of places,” I assured them.
The snow had been shoveled from the sidewalk most of the way along Pacheco. I only had to walk in the street in one small section. The walk took less than 20 minutes, leaving me time to pop into the Runnels Building and purchase a bottle of juice.
Although it was still 15 minutes before the train would arrive, the platform was crowded. In addition to people returning or heading to Albuquerque for business, the majority of the passengers appeared to be traveling for leisure. A couple of people had rolling suitcases and probably were going to take advantage of the new shuttle between downtown Albuquerque and the Sunport.
As the train wended its way towards Albuquerque, I caught up on some reading.
Perhaps the next time I have to attend a meeting, I will take time to visit one of the museums and return on the 4:10 train. There is a shuttle bus that makes stops at the plaza, the Roundhouse and Canyon Road.
While there have been lots of naysayers, and many people will not get out of their cars, New Mexico can be proud of the forward thinkers who planned and built the light rail service. Here’s hoping that many will take advantage of this service and that demand will increase the frequency of trains between Albuquerque and Santa Fe.