Cycling to Balloon Fiesta Far Better Idea Than Rail Runner Fiesta Spur

So I’m staring at these two proposed rail spur alternatives to spend a huge chunk of the $7.5 million (actually more) in this year’s capital outlay the City is slated to get toward “Balloon Park transportation improvements.”

balloon fiesta rail line

Rick Nathanson’s Journal story this morning concerns reaction from some Edith Blvd. Balloon Park neighbors (they hate the idea), but as I stare at the proposal and graphic above, I’m thinking:

This rail spur idea is on the table, at least for discussion purposes, but realigning the train tracks on El Pueblo Rd. NE. to make it safer for cyclists who attend the Balloon Fiesta in significant numbers (not to mention riding El Pueblo the other 356 days of the year) is off the table?

Let me get this straight.

You want to spend a ton of money on a rail spur for an event held nine days a year, thinking that quite a few folks will perhaps ride the train, when you could spend far less money preventing injuries, many serious, to cyclists who ARE ALREADY RIDING TO THE EVENT EACH YEAR in such significant numbers that the Bike ABQ bike valet station at the event is swamped and you have to hustle to get a PACE bike before somebody else beats you to it? 

Instead of repositioning a few feet of track on El Pueblo to save thousands, if not millions of dollars by now in personal medical bills and associated care over the years (not to mention government/private business litigation exposure), we’re gonna spend all this money for a nine-day-a-year train spur? Money that goes beyond the whole kit-n-kaboodle approved in capital outlay during this, our year of beloved oil & gas boom/bust abundance?

“According to the study, and depending on the rail spur option selected, cost estimates range from $8.4 million to $11.2 million.”

And don’t tell me it’s not just nine-days-a-year because of the Balloon Museum. Because…just stop. Don’t go there.

It’s great to have ideas and even greater when the idea involves trains. I LOVE TRAINS. I rode the Rail Runner just this past weekend, and bike tour Europe every year or so because of trains as much as cycling. I especially love discussing any idea involving use of public transit to solve traffic problems over boring and ultimately missing the point ideas such as just creating a roadway spur off I-25 to the Balloon Fiesta.

But this train idea is a dumb idea. 

Instead, let’s take the existing popularity of riding a bicycle to the event by:

  • Making El Pueblo Rd. N.E. safer by changing the configuration of the tracks in a way that makes the crossing angle safer or the need to even tracks non-existent;
  • Promoting riding to Fiesta at a level commensurate with all other promotional events around Balloon Fiesta (i.e., a ton more than we do now);
  • Offering group rides from various locales around town in something akin to the “walking school bus” idea.
  • Aligning the Fiesta with PACE bike share pricing, offering special Balloon Fiesta deals and adding stations in/around the Fiesta; and, yes,
  • Working with Rail Runner to have/have larger PACE stations and special bike storage (perhaps an extra train car just for bikes like below???) during the event for that “last mile” from the Los Ranchos Rail Runner station.

To this point, riding a bicycle to Balloon Fiesta has been treated by the City almost as some sort of secret. Instead of blowing “$8.4 million to $11.2 million” on a rail spur, we could probably spend only 5%, maybe 10% if the El Pueblo reconfiguration involves a bunch of right-of-way acquisition, of that and dramatically increase the already sizable number of folks, local and tourists, who alleviate roadway traffic problems during Fiesta by cycling.

And in numbers far exceeding those who would ride the train solely because of this spur.

Thanks in advance to everyone at the City for putting this idea back on the table as we further explore how to fix Balloon Fiesta traffic. I mean, it’s such a good idea, they gotta do it. They’ve absolutely got to at least give it serious consideration. Right?






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