A public transit service thousands of people have used to beat Balloon Fiesta traffic over the last few years won’t be available for this year’s Fiesta.
Despite positive feedback and a few thousand riders, the Rail Runner says its extra weekend train and shuttle service won’t be making rounds for next month’s event.
“We love taking people to Balloon Fiesta,” said Augusta Meyers, spokeswoman for the Rail Runner. “But it has to be feasible, financially.”
Rail Runner had been offering the deal for the last three years. The old offer cost riders between $12-$25 for an all-day train ticket, a Fiesta ticket and a ride on a shuttle bus from the Journal Center / Los Ranchos station to Balloon Fiesta Park.
“Each additional train can cost a few thousand dollars to run, so when you add that up you know it adds up to quite a bit of money,” said Meyers.
In past years, Rail Runner spent an extra $20,000-$40,000 to run about 16-extra early morning trains, plus the shuttle buses.
“We did receive some really positive feedback,” said Meyers.
However, Rail Runner says that feedback and ridership didn’t justify the cost.
Rail Runner is also facing a $60 million-dollar safety technology mandate from the Federal Government that the service is expected to pay for by the end of the year.
“We totally understand business decisions,” said Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta (AIBF) Spokesman Tom Garrity.
Without the train, AIBF says there are still a lot of options to get to the park, including park and ride shuttle services.
Four Park & Ride lots are available in the Albuquerque-area at the Hoffmantown Church, Coronado and Cottonwood malls, and Intel in Rio Rancho.
AIBF is also encouraging people to consider a growing, popular option: biking. A bike valet service for cyclists is free.
“Each year, Balloon Fiesta sees more and more cyclists coming to Balloon Fiesta,” said Garrity.
Back in 2008, lawmakers funded plans to build a railroad spur to go directly to Balloon Fiesta Park. The two-million in funding for that project was retracted by lawmakers during the recession.