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Pay Close Attention

We’re paying more at the pump. The economy has cooled and everyday citizens are forced to cutback on their spending. Luckily, the government has the answer (subscription) on how to make our life a little easier:

Plans for a sales tax to support the Rail Runner commuter train and a regional bus system are gaining steam.

Bernalillo and Sandoval counties are to consider this week publishing a legal notice needed to put the one-eighth-cent tax on the Nov. 4 ballot. Valencia County might do the same, though perhaps not until next month.

“I think the Rail Runner’s time has come,” said Alan Armijo, chairman of the Bernalillo County Commission. Voters “at least need the opportunity to decide that.”

The tax proposal must clear one more step before going to the counties — passage by the regional transit board Wednesday. That board, however, cannot put the tax on the ballot itself.

If approved, it will ask the counties to do that. Sandoval County has a meeting scheduled Thursday, and Bernalillo County has one Friday.

“Mass transportation is where we’ve got to start looking to with the cost of gas and lack of river crossings,” Sandoval County Commissioner Don Leonard said.

Yup, this is really going to help. We’re lucky to have such progressive thinking group of leaders in county government. A quick review of the U.S. Census shows that the population of Bernalillo County is 615,099, and the population of Sandoval County is 113,772 for a two county total of 728,871 people. Now consider the record number of people that have taken a ride on on the Rail Runner at its peak:

The New Mexico Rail Runner Express gave 5,980 rides last weekend during the first Saturday of Summer service. That ranks as the second highest daily ridership figure since the Rail Runner began service in July 2006. The only other day that had more passengers was on Friday, August 4, 2006 when 6,148 passengers rode the train – three weeks after service began.

A little basic math, and we learn that at its peak .08% of the population in the two county area is benefiting from the “cost-savings” of the Rail Runner service. So, of course, it only makes sense that 99.2% of the population should pay a little more in sales tax to provide the additional $26 million in revenue.

I owe an apology to Mayor Martin Chavez and others who want to put a light rail line on Central. After reviewing the Rail Runner math, their plan makes perfect sense.