If you’ve taken the Rail Runner on a Wednesday recently, you might notice more smiling faces on the train than normal. People traveling in pairs and groups out to enjoy a day of leisure.
Earlier this year, Rio Metro extended the Seniors Ride Free on Wednesdays program to folks age 60 and over. Marie Morra, Marketing Specialist for Rio Metro, saw this as an opportunity to work with local organizations serving seniors to get them onboard with using transit.
Morra started contacting local senior centers, veterans’ groups, and women’s auxiliary groups with the idea of setting up day trips from Albuquerque to Santa Fe. They were very interested, and she quickly got to work partnering with them to organize Wednesday excursions.
Morra plans everything in advance.
“I meet the groups at the station. Everybody gets a lanyard and a bag with some Rail Runner goodies, and I go over the agenda for the day with them before we get on the train,” she said.
The groups meet at the Montaño Rail Runner Station, and take the train to the Santa Fe Depot. Along the way, Morra visits with each person individually and gets to know them. Then, when they arrive in Santa Fe, everyone heads over to Tomasita’s Restaurant, which is known for their New Mexican food. The restaurant is just steps from the Depot, making it the perfect spot for lunch.
“We’ve established a great partnership with Tomasita’s,” says Morra. “The restaurant has everything set up for us when we arrive, like water and chips and salsa. I have laminated menus that people can look at so they know what they want to order when we get there.”
During lunch, Morra engages everyone with games and train trivia.
“It goes by fast,” she says. “Then we get back on the train and I let everyone rest and enjoy the ride.”
According to Morra, six different groups have traveled so far, with a total of about 110 people participating. One of those groups was from the City of Albuquerque’s Los Volcanes Senior Center.
Micheal Duran, Program Coordinator for the Los Volcanes Senior Center, worked closely with Morra to schedule the trip.
“Marie comes in for our Friendship Coffee Tables, where we invite different organizations to come in and talk about free services for seniors. She reached out to us and we started planning the trip with her,” said Duran.
He worked with Morra to select a date, then promoted it through the center’s newsletter as well as flyers on their bulletin board.
A group of approximately 12 seniors from Los Volcanes, including a volunteer driver, took the train to Santa Fe on November 2. They were joined by another group of approximately seven from the North Valley Senior Center.
Duran, who has worked at Los Volcanes for four and a half years and has served in the Program Coordinator role for the last year, said he got good feedback from the group after the trip.
“The group of seniors that I talked to said they had a great time. Some of them had never been on the Rail Runner, so it was a great experience for them. They loved Marie. They loved that she was so interactive with the group. It made the trip more memorable and fun for them,” said Duran.
More Trips to Come
According to Morra, this is just the tip of the iceberg.
“We have four more trips before the end of the year, and several ready to go for the beginning of next year,” she said.
“I feel like the Rail Runner has given our seniors a unique opportunity to ride the train for free on Wednesdays. Sometimes people are afraid to go for the first time. Giving seniors this experience provides them with the opportunity to learn how it works, and now they can go on their own,” said Morra.
If your group is interested in learning more about the Seniors 60+ Ride Free on Wednesdays program, visit www.riometro.org/seniorsridefree or call (505) 245-7245.