Amtrak’s Sunset Limited and Las Cruces

Amtrak’s Sunset Limited currently runs just three days a week between New Orleans, LA and Los Angeles, CA. There continues to be a lot of interest in making this a daily train, and I hope that happens soon.

The Sunset Limited stops at 22 cities and towns. These are listed below, with stops having a station building and waiting room shown in bold.

New Orleans, LA
Schriever, LA
New Iberia, LA
Lafayette, LA
Lake Charles, LA

Beaumont, TX
Houston, TX
San Antonio, TX
Del Rio, TX
Sanderson, TX
Alpine, TX
El Paso, TX

Deming, NM
Lordsburg, NM

Benson, AZ
Tucson, AZ
Maricopa, AZ
Yuma, AZ

Palm Springs, CA
Ontario, CA
Pomona, CA
Los Angeles, CA

As you can see, the Sunset Limited makes only two stops in the great state of New Mexico, and both of them are small towns (Deming 14K, Lordsburg 2.4K) without a station building.

Las Cruces, home of New Mexico State University, is by far the largest city in southern New Mexico, with a population of 103K and a metro area of 218K. It is not served by passenger rail.

Currently, if you want to utilize the Sunset Limited from Las Cruces, you need to board a Greyhound bus in Las Cruces at 1:20 a.m., and after you arrive at the Greyhound station in El Paso at 2:30 a.m., you need to take a cab or walk 0.4 miles in the middle of the night to the Amtrak station where you’ll have to wait until 1:22 p.m. to catch the westbound train or 3:10 p.m. to catch the eastbound train. Or later, if the train is not on time.

Returning to Las Cruces from El Paso involves arriving by train westbound at 1:22 p.m. or eastbound at 3:10 p.m., taking a cab or walking the 0.4 miles to the Greyhound station, and then waiting for the 3:25 a.m. bus to Las Cruces, where you will arrive at 4:30 a.m.

How’s that for convenience?

Would it be possible for the Sunset Limited to make a stop at Las Cruces between El Paso and Deming? Yes, but…

In order for the Sunset Limited to make a stop in Las Cruces without building a new rail line, it would have have to leave Union Pacific track and take BNSF track to Las Cruces, then on to Rincon, where it would take Southwestern Railroad track through Hatch and down to Deming where it would rejoin the Union Pacific track, adding 41 miles and some additional time to the trip both eastbound and westbound.

Other option would be to connect Amtrak’s Southwest Chief to the Sunset Limited by adding a new passenger route between Albuquerque and El Paso, with stops in Socorro and Las Cruces along the way. The rail between Albuquerque and Belen is owned by NMRX, and between Belen and El Paso by BNSF. Alternatively, the new passenger route could run entirely on BNSP track if you took the Rail Runner Express from Albuquerque to Belen with the new passenger route running between Belen and El Paso.

Yet another option would be to add a short passenger route like Rail Runner between Las Cruces and El Paso along 42 miles of BNSF track.

The best non-rail option would be to have a dedicated Amtrak thruway bus between Las Cruces and El Paso that would be in sync with the Sunset Limited train schedule and take you directly to and from the Amtrak station in El Paso. (The wonderful Van Galder bus service that runs multiple times per day between Madison, Janesville, South Beloit, Rockford, and Chicago serves as an excellent model as to what can be done by a well-run bus company.)

Finally, a shuttle between Las Cruces and El Paso in sync with the Sunset Limited train schedule could be offered, similar to the RoadRunneR shuttle that runs between Lamy and Santa Fe for the Southwest Chief stop at Lamy.

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