Hollywood-Style Rail Pander

Hollywood-Style Rail Pander

Katy Grimes: In the OMG category, I caught a 30 second commercial tonight on a local Sacramento television channel that asked, “Wanna go to the Grammys? Get your creative juices flowing and create a 30 second commercial about the excitement and anticipation of the future of rail travel. Just grab your camera and shoot and edit. And you could be on your way to the Grammys.”

The “excitement and anticipation of the future of rail travel?” Really?

Good Day Sacramento was the sponsor of this disgusting, pandering, advertisement for High-Speed Rail in California. The print version ad asks for contestants to create a 30-second music video about train travel using the theme, “Where will your ticket take you?” The commercial video is HERE.

Are they kidding? Who is paying for this publicly funded enterprise? And what a cheapo way to get desperately-seeking rock stars to do the commercials for publicly-funded rail travel for free.

The official rules say that the contest is sponsored by the  San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission and the ACE Train, also known as the Altamont Commuter Express train. The daily commuter train has 3,700 riders.

3,700 riders?

The Altamont Commuter Express, managed by San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission, with operations contracted to Herzog Transit Services, (founded in 1993, right before rail agencies were created in many states) currently provides commuter rail service between Stockton and San Jose and apparently takes “2 hours and 10 minutes end-to-end,” with eight stops. Really? A train commute between Stockton to San Jose takes two hours? This is Northern California, not Los Angeles – we can drive to so many locations in the North state within one hour easily, and with very little traffic.

California’s High-Speed Rail Authority was created in 1996.

High-Speed Rail Contracts

“On August 19, 2011, Caltrain announced a staff recommendation to sign a five-year, $62.5 million contract with Missouri based TransitAmerica Services, a subsidiary of Herzog Transit Systems, after taking proposals from three other firms, including Amtrak, which has provided operating employees since 1992, the San Jose Mercury News reported.

But the motivation is more complex. With public approval by California voters in the toilet for High Speed Rail, and the Fresno to Bakersfield segment under intense public scrutiny, it appears that the  Altamont train advocates are hoping for a shot of the Proposition 1A public funding for the existing rail system. But, there is no way that this segment could be “high-speed.” And, there is already an existing train system. Why build a new one right now?

As mandated by Proposition 1A, the California High Speed Rail Authority is beginning the  process of studying the Altamont Corridor alignment. Have a look at their announcement newsletter for details. “The project corridor is defined as San José to Stockton, with a possible spur to Modesto.”

The census of 2010 claimed that Stockton had 291,707 residents; San Jose had 945,942.  And the train between the two cities of 1.3 million people has 3,700 riders?

Altamont Express train revenues “as of 2006-07 generated $4 million, about 30% of the $13.3 million operating and administrative cost. That breaks down to $3,513 per rider, $270 per month, if there are really 3,700 riders.” And, they are upside down $9 million. The riders, the shortfall and the costs don’t add up.

The inside baseball story is that this train line has been a failure since the Dot.com crash in Silicon Valley. The rail line ostensibly was created to handle the commuters into Silicon Valley during the boon. But once Silicon Valley crashed, there were not nearly the number of daily commuters traveling between San Jose and Stockton as planned – and it hasn’t rebooted.

Grammy Connection

The advertisement for the Grammy awards show is really interesting. The tags on the advertisement are, high speed railCBSGrammy Award TrainscontestawardsHSR and BART. It would be interesting if any of the links directed you to the correct sites – instead they take you to “youtube” sites advertising each of the subjects.

Could this be a scam?

You can read all about this contest on the Altamont Commuter Express Facebook page  but is the page maintained by public employees? 

Is this what our California public agencies are now using taxpayer funds for? I am still researching which Public Relations firm(s) is pushing this deceptive campaign. The roots run deeply when it comes to rail and High-Speed Rail contracts.

Side note: Apparently there is a problem with onboard Wifi – “They are currently testing their on-board Wi-Fi internet service and hope to get it restored soon.” How sophisticated. But they want a free commercial, and will probably get plenty from Hollywood-wanna be saps.

JAN. 24, 2012

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