How to Get Around New Mexico with Affordable and Accessible Mass Transit

by  Lilit Marcus | Dec 17, 2013
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Santa Fe, New Mexico / Sean Pavone / iStock

Good luck heading to the American West without a car. Outside of the major urban areas, the U.S. hasn't exactly embraced the idea of mass transit. There are some exceptions, however. New Mexico in particular offers public transportation that’s not only convenient but affordable, meaning that you can finally have that ski weekend in Taos or jewelry shopping marathon in Santa Fe without driving.

From Albuquerque to Santa Fe...
The easiest way to get from the Albuquerque airport – which, thanks to JetBlue, now has several direct flights a day to and from New York City and Boston  – to Santa Fe is the Sandia shuttle. This van holds about six passengers and goes back and forth between the airport and downtown Santa Fe, with several direct hotel drop-offs. It’s $28 each way, which is much less than what any cab company will charge you. There are about ten shuttles each day on weekdays, but check the schedule ahead of time and make a reservation.

A somewhat slower but much more scenic way to get from Albuquerque to Santa Fe is via the Rail Runner. This three-level train (sit up top if you can, since there are large windows with great views of the countryside) costs just $9 each way. There is one downside to the train, though: don’t expect a fancy waiting area – or, really, any waiting area. At most stops, there’s just a single bench and a posted schedule.  There’s also no place to buy tickets from a kiosk – you either purchase them on-board or buy them online in advance.

In Santa Fe...
Once you’re in Santa Fe, it’s fairly easy and inexpensive to get around. If you stay near the plaza downtown – which is where most of the hotels are – you will be able to walk to almost every major attraction, from the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum to the Cathedral of St. Francis. A free shuttle bus called the Santa Fe Pick-up stops at several major downtown locations and will drop you off at Museum Hill (where four of the city’s best museums, including the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, are located next to each other) or at Canyon Road, where most of the city’s most famous art galleries are situated.

From Santa Fe to Taos...
If you want to head on to Taos, don’t let the distance deter you. The Taos Express, a shuttle-type bus that can hold 15-20 people, picks up twice a day (mornings and afternoons) and will deliver you to central Taos for just five dollars (cash only). Although you don’t need a reservation, you should probably make one – the route is popular in the summer and during ski season, and you’ll also need to let the driver know in advance if you are bringing a bike or skis with you. The drive takes about an hour and a half. If there’s inclement weather, give the Taos Express office a call in case they decide to cancel or postpone the trip – since there are only two buses a day in both directions, you can’t afford to be cavalier. If you’ve made a reservation and included your phone number, the company will contact you about any changes or cancellations.

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