Station Area Plans

Station Area Planning & Development


In communities across the country, commuter rail stations attract business, housing, and public uses and help make station areas valued community and economic development centers.  New Mexico Rail Runner Express stations now present these opportunities to New Mexico communities.  

The MRCOG is assisting local governments to identify how the Rail Runner can help meet their current and future goals.  Using Transit Oriented Development as a framework, the MRCOG's station area planning efforts emphasize each community's unique character to help achieve these opportunities.

The Town of Bernalillo Station Area Plan, the Los Lunas Station Area Plan, the City of Belen Station Area Study, and Bernalillo County / Sunport Station Area Plan in Albuquerque's South Valley are made possible by a 2006 legislative appropriate "to plan, design and improve land facilities located near transit stop." The local jurisdictions, area residents, consultants, and MRCOG are all collaborating in the planning efforts. The plans provide local staff a guide for how development in the station area should occur, and inform future land-use and policy decisions made by elected officials, outside agencies, and developers.

Transit Oriented Development: Creating Vibrant and Inviting Public Spaces

Transit oriented development (TOD) is a mixed-use area located within close proximity to a transit stop or line. This type of development often includes:

  • a core commercial area;
  • development that is pedestrian friendly and encourages people to walk or bike between transit stations and local businesses, offices, homes and other destinations; and
  • mixed use development, such as residential, commercial and public space, which create an inviting area that attracts residents, employers and visitors.

Transit Oriented Development often focuses on 1/2-mile around the transit station, which is generally considered to be walking distance.

With smart planning and leadership, transit oriented development benefits may include:

  • vibrant, safe, areas that are enjoyable to walk in;
  • parks, plazas and public spaces;
  • more transportation options for local and regional trips;
  • opportunity for area residents to spend less money on transportation;
  • more transportation options for an aging population;
  • cost savings for local jurisdictions from reduced infrastructure needs;
  • increased housing options -- more styles and price options; and
  • better health and quality of life for residents.




A range of different development activity is occurring along the Rail Runner corridor. These activities include active development, master planning, sector planning, and plan implementation. The Station Area Land Development Newsletter provides an overview of the development activity in each of the station areas.



Belen Plan

The Historic Harvey House in Belen

The  Belen Station Area Planning Study 8.33 Mb  was the first step in a community planning and design process to explore ideas for land uses and development, circulation, public spaces and key projects for the area surrounding the Belen Rail Runner station. This report provides local staff a guide for development in the station area, and informs future land-use and policy decisions made by elected officials, outside agencies, and developers.

The Belen Rail Runner Station Area Infrastructure & Development Workshop was continued the implementation of the Study by prioritizing and starting conceptual design of other projects recommended in the Study. The  Belen workshop report 2.73 Mb  identifies a list of projects ready for detailed design and implementation when funding becomes available.

Town of Bernalillo Plan

The Town of Bernalillo is a small, historic community located approximately 18 miles north of Albuquerque.  Town residents value the community's authenticity and style of life, though the area is experiencing increased real estate market pressure due to its proximity to Albuquerque, Rio Rancho and Santa Fe.  

Recognizing this pressure and the opportunities the Rail Runner presents, in September of 2006 the Town of Bernalillo adopted a moratorium on building permits in areas near the community's two rail stations:  the downtown Bernalillo station and the Sandoval County US 550 station.  At that point, a planning effort -- including a 4-day design workshop -- was initiated to develop land use and transportation concepts for the areas near both stations.

A Community Vision for Transit Oriented Development was adopted by the Town of Bernalillo in October of 2007.  The plan includes goals and objectives for the areas near the stations, circulation recommendations (including new streets, street improvements, and pedestrian and bicycle facilities), and public space and park recommendations. Land use concepts in the plan include commercial and residential uses, and the plan contains building design recommendations that reflect transit oriented development principles.  Downtown BernalilloAdditionally, the plan identifies a number of housing types that are consistent with the Towns heritage and architectural style while being consistent with TOD principles. For more information:

Downtown Bernalillo Rail Runner Station Area

Downtown Bernalillo
Perspective looking east from Camino del Pueblo to the Downtown Bernalillo Station

The plan extends the vibrancy of Camino del Pueblo through a lively shopping street to the Downtown Bernalillo Station. Those not using the train may choose to visit the area to stroll the shaded sidewalks, to browse the shop windows or to meet with neighbors. A safe and inviting station will greet rail passengers, who will immediately recognize Bernalillo's rich history and character.

This vision is not far from what Bernalillo is today. But, in order to achieve this, in the time of big box stores and sprawling residential development, some important improvements have been identified:

  • A lively shopping street connecting the station to Camino del Pueblo, providing public space for outdoor dining, performance areas, farmer's market, retail storefronts and places to simply relax.
  • Safe, lighted and shaded sidewalks connecting the Rail Runner station to homes, local businesses and Camino del Pueblo.
  • Additional parking to serve local businesses and other destinations near the station.
  • New roads and pathways to ease circulation and provide safe and convenient routes for pedestrians and bicyclists.
  • New commercial and residential development that will be "neighborhood sized" and will look and feel like those found along Camino del Pueblo.
  • Revitalized acequias and historic trails to provide vital links to residential areas and community open spaces.
  • New housing that offers maximum choice in size, type and price that is designed to reflect Bernalillo's architectural styles and sustainable building practices -- all within a convenient walk to the station.

Sandoval County US 550 Station Area

An example of a multi-purpose path linking the Town of Bernalillo Rail Runner stations to surrounding neighborhoods

Located where some say the state's wine industry started, this station blends Bernalillo's historic characteristics with the more modern, active setting of the US 550/I-25 corridor. This station will have an increasingly important transportation role by providing connections between the Rail Runner and numerous bus and shuttle linkages -- and will soon serve as the gateway station for future Rail Runner service north to Santa Fe.

For residents, the station area plan encourages a feeling of real community - instead of simply a parking lot and a place to catch the train. Stores and offices -- lined with active sidewalks and pedestrian paseos - inspire a vibrant "sense of arrival" for visitors to the area.

Pedestrian paths, some along the acequia, will make for a comfortable and relaxing walk between the station and nearby houses, businesses, schools and of course, the annual Bernalillo Wine Festival.

To achieve this vision, improvements identified for the station area include:

  • Mixed-use development and new residential development on vacant parcels within walking distance of the station.
  • Bike routes that will connect the station area to a network of existing and future bike lanes.
  • A pedestrian and bike connection under US 550 that will safely and comfortably bring people to the high school and north.
  • Creation of "sense of arrival" through landmark architectural elements, direct views of the Sandia Mountains and the addition of trees and a vineyard-themed parking lot.
  • New parks, public open spaces and enhancements to the historical trails and acequias to reflect the vineyard and rich agricultural history of the area.

See also: 

Los Lunas Plan

The Village of Los Lunas officially adopted the Los Lunas Rail Runner Express Station Area Plan at their May 7, 2008, Village council meeting. The official Station area plan is designed to help the station and surrounding area to become a destination for both Village residents and visitors to the area.

The plan calls this area to be center for the community and offer a variety of residential and retail offerings as well as public space and community amenities such as parks and bike paths. The plan makes three recommendations to achieve the Village's vision for the station area -- which extend roughly ½ mile from the station.

Circulation Concept included in the Draft Los Lunas Station Area Plan

Design standards are recommended to ensure that new buildings are pedestrian friendly, promote safety, are of appropriate scale, and create a memorable place. Recommendations for transportation improvements are designed to improve the ease and safety of walking and bicycling in the area while improving traffic circulation. The plan also recommends the adoption of a mixed-use core zone in the area closest to the station --a district that would have a mix of retail and housing and activity throughout the day -- and a surrounding residential area which would be a transition area to the surrounding neighborhoods and would provide additional flexibility in residential development.  

Based on the results of the community outreach process, opportunity sites and a market study, the concept of future land use in the station area includes some retail and commercial uses in the immediate vicinity of the station. Two - to three-story mixed use buildings with residential uses over ground floor retail would create a town center feel consistent with the traditional scale of Los Lunas.

Multi-family and higher density residential will be located in other available areas near the station. The building design of new residential will complement the existing neighborhoods and the principles of TOD. These areas will develop in a way that will encourage walking to the station and the variety of different destination in the station area.

The station area plan is the product of an 18-month effort by the Village staff, Village residents, and members of an advisory group that helped steer the effort. The advisory group and the Village planning and zoning commission reviewed the draft plan and recommended that the Village council adopt the plan. The Mid-Region Council of Governments managed the planning effort which was funded by the state.  

Plan Goals and Recommendations

The draft plan include land use, open space, housing, economic development, urban design, circulation, and parking goals to help achieve the station area vision.

As one of its primary recommendations, the draft plan proposes two new land districts near the Rail Runner station. The TOD - MU (mixed use) district promotes development types supportive of transit ridership, walking and bicycling. The TOD-MU also allows mixed-use development which combines residential and commercial uses and creates activity throughout the day in order to support local businesses and keep streets safe and attractive.

The TOD -- R (residential) provides for residential uses that support the TOD-MU, while protecting the character of surrounding residential neighborhoods. This area allows accessory apartments, duplexes, patio homes, and multi-family apartments. Design features are included to contribute to walkability and the area vision.

Both public and private actions will be needed to make the proposed improvements a reality. The plan highlights key projects and responsibilities that will need to occur over the next decade to achieve the station area vision. High priority actions include:  

  • Formally adopting resolutions, ordinances and policy changes for the mixed use core and residential area
  • Creating a formal development mechanism
  • Circulation infrastructure, including multi-modal improvements to Courthouse Road and NM314 in the vicinity of the station
  • Pedestrian and bicycle improvements necessary at the intersection of Courthouse Road and NM 314

See also: 

Bernalillo County / International Sunport Plan

The Bernalillo County / International Sunport Station Area plan, adopted in November 2009, focuses on the area within a quarter-to-half-mile -- basically, walking distance -- from the station. The area's large parcels of vacant land will provide a center of neighborhood serving retail and employment space, which will be designed to encourage walking to and from the Rail Runner and other transit connections. The plan brings with it an elective alternative zoning classification that allows mixed uses, higher density, and development standards to create a pedestrian environment. The plan also defines specific improvements -- such as pedestrian and bike paths -- that will help the station better serve existing residents and businesses in the Mountain View neighborhood.

The planning effort was a collaborative effort by Bernalillo County and the Mid-Region Council of Governments. MRCOG has actively worked with communities along the Rail Runner corridor to help identify economic and land use opportunities near the Rail Runner station and to plan for infrastructure and policy actions to help achieve the visions for the areas.  

 View Bernalillo County / International Sunport Station Area Plan


The Bernalillo County / International Sunport Station is located in the Mountain View neighborhood of Bernalillo County's South Valley. The Mountain View neighborhood is characterized by rural residential and industrial uses. The Rio Grande river and large agricultural tracts create one of the most attractive physical settings in the Albuquerque metropolitan area. Vast acres of heavy industry offer employment opportunities and gross receipts for the County, though have resulted in visual and environmental degradation.

In early 2007, the Mid-Region Council of Governments and Bernalillo County began the station area planning efforts. The station area planning efforts were incorporated into the County's on-going Mountain View Sector Development Plan efforts.

In late 2008, the decision was made to develop a separate plan in order to expedite the planning process as well as to allow the additional level of detail needed to achieve the goals of the planning process.

The Rail Runner station is envisioned to be the focal point of a vital new activity center for the South Valley. The center of the community will include a dynamic mix of residential, retail, and employment opportunities, in a safe and attractive environment that encourages people to walk and enjoy the beautiful desert surroundings, unique architecture, and exciting street life. Flex space, research and development, and light industrial, office and other employment space are also envisioned for the area. Additional roadways, bike and pedestrian paths, and crossings will help circulation within the area and will help people get to and from the area from surrounding neighborhoods.

Designed to create an enjoyable and engaging pedestrian experience, these pedestrian and bike facilities will also contribute to public space -- areas where people relax, eat lunch, play and attend public events.  

See also: 


Market Evaluation

In January, 2008, Economic & Planning Systems, Inc. was hired to conduct pdf the New Mexico Rail Runner Express Transit Oriented Development Market Evaluation 2.73 Mb.  This evaluation addresses the market potentials for commercial, residential, and mixed use development in each station area.

To better understand these opportunities and the role of Transit Oriented Development (TOD) in the region, the Market Evaluation examined some central questions:  

  • Housing has a regional market.  What do the demographic and economic trends for the region tell us about TOD opportunities?
  • Recognizing the existing built environment, what is the likelihood area residents would purchase housing and commercial building in the TOD style?
  • Each community is unique.  How do each community's vision, development activity, and residential market conditions shape the potential for TOD?
  • Balancing national and local analysis, what is the residential and commercial demand in each station area?

Local Lessons for Transit Oriented Development

The built environment in Albuquerque, as in many western U.S. cities, is typified by single family-detached homes and automobile-oriented commercial development.  At a time when we are experiencing increased road congestion, commute times, travel costs, and a renewed interest in walkable communities, the introduction of commuter rail service presents new opportunities.  Recent local experience with mixed-use development offers the following insights to help guide TOD development in the greater Albuquerque region:

  • The Albuquerque Area is at a tipping point concerning attached housing.  While the overall pool of projects is small, the number of projects and units is picking up.
  • Price is a fundamental driver.  Ideally, a project target is a weighted average between $180,000 and $200,000 per unit. 
  • Density is important.  Generally, units can be delivered at lower prices in higher density developments.
  • Unit size must be controlled to keep low prices. Over-sizing and over-pricing units has been a major factor contributing to slow sales rates of earlier projects.
  • Design must be compelling and it appears that projects with a regional flavor do best. 
  • The most important unit amenity appears to be private open space. 
  • Area amenities - such as a coffee shops, delis, and grocery stores and entertainment venues -- will help buyers trade-off single family living for an attached home.

Summary of Market Evaluation Findings

The following points summarize the Market Evaluation's findings of residential and commercial development potentials for four station areas along the Rail Runner corridor.  Findings are grouped for the communities of Bernalillo (2 stations), Los Lunas, and the South Valley. 

  • The economic context of the Albuquerque region is strong and will generate robust demand for new residential units and commercial uses.
  • There has been, historically, very limited market demand for higher density residential development in the Albuquerque Area.  However, trends suggest that specific products geared to transit oriented development will be viable in the near term if priced right and designed well.
  • The development of a master plan for each station area is essential to synthesize the community vision and provide direction to developers. 
  • Specific sites within the station area are better positioned for redevelopment than others, based on market factors. 
  • Strong partnerships between the public and private sectors are vital to successful station area development.  There are responsibilities for both that should be addressed to implement the master plans effectively.
  • There are opportunities that will foster TOD growth within each community.  There are also constraints that must be addressed.

Specific market evaluation findings for each of the communities are below.


The two Bernalillo stations are positioned to become concentrated nodes of mixed-use development that generate a regional draw.

Factors impacting the market for TOD in the Downtown Bernalillo and Sandoval County / US 550 station areas -- both positively and negatively - include:

  • Market Readiness -- Interviews with developers of condominiums and townhomes suggest that Bernalillo is ripe for TOD in the near term. 
  • Multiple Markets -- Bernalillo's location between Santa Fe, Albuquerque and Rio Rancho places it in an ideal spot to appeal to buyers from multiple markets. 
  • Historic Character and Authenticity -- As new developments provide walkable town centers, few will be able to compete with an authentic town center with truly historic structures. 
  • Neighboring Expenditure Potential --The right design of new mixed-use development will enable Bernalillo businesses to capture retail expenditures from the communities to the east and west, which traditionally have not patronized Town businesses.
  • Land Supply and Parcel Size -- Some larger parcels are available, but land assemblage of small lots will be necessary.  There are few sites for medium- to large-scale builders to further the current momentum. 
  • Connectivity -- Pedestrian and bicycle paths that connect a series of properties to the stations will help offer the opportunities created by the Rail Runner to a broad section of the community. 
  • Constraints -- Limited land supply, property aggregation, the resistance for businesses to leave the US 550 corridor, and the shift to higher density development are challenges that will need to be addressed.

Los Lunas

The Los Lunas development potentials are geared towards residential in the near term, while support for commercial uses is expected to grow over time. 

Factors impacting the market for TOD in the Los Lunas station area -- both positively and negatively - include:

  • Expanding Market Conditions -- One of the most evident features of the Los Lunas market is its accelerated expansion over the past three years.  Local residents and Albuquerque commuters have found it to be a good investment and have increased demand to new levels.  Retail development has responded to the growth in rooftops.  A submarket with high growth is generally conducive for niche projects, such as TOD.
  • Land Supply -- Los Lunas offers parcels of significant size under single ownership within the station area.  The challenges associated with land aggregation may be less of an issue.
  • Inadequate Infrastructure -- Infrastructure and traffic problems must be addressed to facilitate development.  Problems with traffic are paramount in Los Lunas around the intersection of Highway 6 and Highway 314.
  • Market Capture East of I-25 -- The market is booming adjacent to the I-25 corridor with conventional commercial and residential development.  The challenge is to capture some of this activity in the station area.
  • Daytime Population Dilemma -- The low daytime population of Los Lunas is a restraint to the existence of more retail in the area of the station.  There are modest contingents of commuters in the morning and evening, but unlikely to support more retail in itself.
  • Local Perception -- Past attempts at townhouses have not absorbed so well, but were arguably not done at the "right" time. 
  • Latent Demand --   Many Valencia County residents will be looking for a smaller house in retirement and do not want to leave the vicinity of Los Lunas.  This population is ideally matched for a higher density neighborhood such as what is possible around the Los Lunas station.

South Valley

The Bernalillo County / International Sunport station is located in Albuquerque's South Valley.  Research indicates that the station area has substantial development potential. Factors impacting the market for TOD in the South Valley -- both positively and negatively - include:

  • Environmental Concerns -- Some of the sites have been contaminated by industrial uses, which up to now have been a major factor in discouraging development. 
  • Land Availability -- There is a large supply of vacant land - much of it is under a single ownership -- in the station area.  Without demolition costs or aggregation challenges, development becomes more viable.
  • Changing Development Context -- The South Valley subarea now has a southern anchor, Mesa del Sol, which provides high quality housing and employment.  Because of Mesa del Sol, this area will be no longer be perceived as the periphery of the community.
  • North Valley Example -- Developers with a long-term local track record compare this setting to the North Valley/Journal Center and suggest that a similar evolution is possible. 
  • Active Developer Interest -- Developer interest in station area parcels has recently increased, and proposals include high-end residential homes, intensive mixed-use, and hotel, office, and flex-space uses. 
  • Employment -- The South Valley is a regional employment center with approximately 21,400 jobs in the vicinity of the station area. 
  • Industrial Land Uses -- Environmental contamination and unsightly uses will diminish market demand.  As land values rise, the potential for redevelopment increases though the trend for industrial uses continues.
  • Strong Visibility and Traffic Counts -- The adjacent roadways of Rio Bravo and Broadway carry major traffic levels.  The proximity to I-25 helps generate drive-by traffic.  The visibility of the site from these roads increases market support for commercial uses.
  • Accessibility -- Creating a network of pedestrian routes and/or roads to link development sites to the station will be difficult but important to leverage the benefits of transit.


Tony Sylvester (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) or (505) 724-3635



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