Open House at Harmon Shops

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MACTRAXX
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Location: Islandia,Long Island,NY

Re: Open House at Harmon Shops

Post by MACTRAXX » Sat Aug 13, 2011 8:18 pm

RearOfSignal wrote:
MACTRAXX wrote:I also think if that is what it must take to retain this event it will be well worth Metro-North's while in the form of good public relations for starters...

Thoughts from MACTRAXX
The people who go to the open are not the same who are regular commuters, so how does that help public relations?
ROS: I believe this event only helps Metro-North's standing in the communities that it serves and it allows those interested to see first hand what MN does...

MACTRAXX
EXPRESS TRAIN TO NEW YORK PENN STATION-NO JAMAICA ON THIS TRAIN-PLEASE STAND CLEAR OF THE CLOSING TRAIN DOORS

Spuyten Duyvil
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Re: Open House at Harmon Shops

Post by Spuyten Duyvil » Sat Aug 13, 2011 9:05 pm

RearOfSignal wrote:
MACTRAXX wrote:I also think if that is what it must take to retain this event it will be well worth Metro-North's while in the form of good public relations for starters...

Thoughts from MACTRAXX
The people who go to the open are not the same who are regular commuters, so how does that help public relations?
I never would have known about the open house were it not for my peak-hour trains on consecutive nights being littered with fliers for the event. I think that more commuters attended than you might realize. But that's a quibble--remember that in my first post on this topic, I also mentioned the taxpayers at large.

Metro North recovers only about 40% of its operating and long-term expenses at the farebox. The enormous real-estate transfer tax revenues generated between 2002-2009 are a thing of the past, there is an intense hatred of the payroll tax and a growing political will to do something about it, Albany raids MMTOA funds with impunity and there's zero political will to stop it, there are ticking pension and debt-service time bombs . . . I could go on, but the upshot is that MTA-dedicated taxes (and fares) are going to have to go way up if current levels of staffing, service, and infrastructure are to be maintained.

I'll save you the trouble of arguing a strawman and state it clearly: no, I obviously don't expect the MN Open House to generate the kind of good will it would take to make much of a dent in these larger issues. But it wouldn't hurt the railroad's cause, either, and it is probably more cost-effective than any other advertising they do. So for me it all hinges on the cost, and if they are saving $25K? 50K? 75K? by not having the event, I'll stand by my original statement that it is a penny-wise, pound foolish decision.

Train322
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Re: Open House at Harmon Shops

Post by Train322 » Thu Sep 01, 2011 9:48 pm

I am just happy I went to two. Very interesting and I get an appreciation of the extensive work required to run a railroad. I had no idea what is involved with respect to the maintenance, how the switches work, wheel truing etc.......

If the economy gets back and the money is available (may take five years), they may be able to afford one again.

Of course, reading through, it can't happen when we have a backlog of rail cars that need maintenance.

Is Croton Harmon a 24/7 operation in October?

thanks

Trainer
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Location: Western CT

Re: Open House at Harmon Shops

Post by Trainer » Thu Sep 01, 2011 10:37 pm

RearOfSignal wrote:
MACTRAXX wrote:Dutch and Everyone: I understand the MTA budget is tight and I thought of this:
Why not charge a nominal admission fee of perhaps $5 as a way of at least partially paying for this event?

The admission tickets for this could even be included in the MNCR TVMs in the sections used for tours and attractions
and this could be a package ticket with RT rail fare and perhaps a small extra charge for the Cold Spring excursion rides
of maybe a couple of dollars extra be an added option...

This could be a way to keep what I feel is one of the best "Open Houses" by any rail company...MACTRAXX
Maybe the reason people came was because it was free.
Maybe, but free events are often only worth what you pay for them, and many folks will avoid them for that percieved reason. An event that charged a reaonable fee (like a railfan trip) has much more value to many interested people. A person's time is more valuable to them than a nominal entry fee.

With enough creativity (such as solicting sponsors, allowing food and merchandise vendors to participate, charging admission, offering a flea market, etc.) this kind of event could be offered as a revenue-neutral proposition, but that's not the reason it will not be offered. The real reason is simply psychological. With money tight, the railroad folks themselves are just not in a mood for it, as they will see the event as a frivoulous distraction from operations, and nothing anyone could prove to them otherwise will get them out of that funk. They'll talk it down among themselves, just because of the "us against them" attitude that always rears its head when funds get tight in any operation. That's understandable, but unfortunate, since funding of MTA operations will be an issue that politicians will be running on (or not), and it can no longer be counted upon that public opinion will be eager to finance the maintenance and expansion of Great Society systems that are designed to lose billions of taxpayer dollars each year. There is just too much competition for those dwindling public funds to take anything for granted any more, and good public relations is more valuable in the long run than a shiney new federal grant.

RearOfSignal
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Re: Open House at Harmon Shops

Post by RearOfSignal » Thu Sep 01, 2011 11:12 pm

How is it that the people in Bronxville who complain about noise from passing trains and untrimmed trees along the ROW, people in Wassaic who don't want trains blowing for crossings in the middle of the night and the people of Connecticut who are fighting fare hikes, or those who say RR employees get paid exorbitant amounts of overtime will give a crap about a Croton-Harmon open house. How is the open house changing the minds of those folks? How is that working towards public relations?

Sure the open house was great for railfans, but the vast majority of people that 1) use MNR services or 2) pay for it in taxes don't give rat's rear end about retired equipment displayed or paint schemes or fan trips or open houses.

Public relations involves satisfying the people who are using this service on a regular basis, not the guy who drives down once a year in October from Mass. for an open house. If people see their $$$ being spent wisely don't you think that will go a longer way to public relations than an open house once a year?

Yes, kids like seeing trains up close and railfans like taking pictures of rare or old equipment and learning how the RR works. But the bottom is that this is still a business, and the primary customer is the commuter not the railfan. Maybe a few commuters may turn into buffs by taking an interest in the RR but that has little effect on the bottom line.
Hurry up and wait at the signal!

RearOfSignal
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Re: Open House at Harmon Shops

Post by RearOfSignal » Thu Sep 01, 2011 11:17 pm

MACTRAXX wrote:
RearOfSignal wrote:
MACTRAXX wrote:I also think if that is what it must take to retain this event it will be well worth Metro-North's while in the form of good public relations for starters...

Thoughts from MACTRAXX
The people who go to the open are not the same who are regular commuters, so how does that help public relations?
ROS: I believe this event only helps Metro-North's standing in the communities that it serves and it allows those interested to see first hand what MN does...

MACTRAXX
I 100% agree with you, the open house is great for "those interested." My point is that those who are interested or even those who potentially might become interested by attending an open house are in much smaller quantity than those who actually use MNR -or pay for it in taxes -and that MNR has a greater responsibility towards those people.
Hurry up and wait at the signal!

Trainer
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Location: Western CT

Re: Open House at Harmon Shops

Post by Trainer » Fri Sep 02, 2011 8:09 am

RearOfSignal wrote:The bottom (line) is that this is still a business, and the primary customer is the commuter not the railfan. Maybe a few commuters may turn into buffs by taking an interest in the RR but that has little effect on the bottom line.
Yes, MN is a business, and perhaps it should be operated as one. The purpose of an open house is not to make railfans happy - it is an opportunity to distrubute public relations messages that support operational objectives. When my hospital produces an Open House, we invite journalists to come celebrate with us and we provide them VIP treatment. We let them meet organization executives, form relations with them, and hear in their own words all the good things that we are doing to help the community. We show pride in our people, and in our systems, and in our results. As a consequence, we get features on local television stations, wonderful write-ups with full-page color pictures of kids in the Sunday paper, and perhaps those same journalists don't feel quite as eager to put not-so-complimentary stories on the front page next month, but instead put them on page 11.

MN's primary customer is NOT the railfan, and it is NOT the commuter. It is the taxpayer. If I never ride a train in my life, I still want to know that my taxes are going to support a quality-focused efficient operation that supports my state's economic infrastructure. Do we really want the media to ONLY run stories about how MN strands trains in all seasons and then demands a fare hike? Do we like seeing only front page stories that quote our rail system as "third-world"? Or do we want to have those stories balanced by pictures of smiling kids in front of shiny new trains, and smiling helpful railroad employees, all underneath glowing reminders of how many people this wonderful system moves on-time and how valuable it is to local businesses and taxpayers?

Running a business is far more complex than making sure that the choo-choo's run on time. MN is one of the best Commuter rail services in the US, but this is the worst time to stop reminding its customers of that fact. Unless it creates events that allow them to define themselves on their own terms, they will be defined by derailments, customer complaints, and politicians who propose to cut its funding to support that great hospital who just had that great open house and is doing such good work. THAT is tomorrow's competition for Metro-North, and chosing to ignore by cancelling public-relations events seems like a very bad long-term strategy.

RearOfSignal
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Re: Open House at Harmon Shops

Post by RearOfSignal » Fri Sep 02, 2011 10:44 am

Trainer wrote:Yes, MN is a business, and perhaps it should be operated as one. The purpose of an open house is not to make railfans happy - it is an opportunity to distrubute public relations messages that support operational objectives.
Isn't the operational objective to run trains 1) safely, 2)with reasonable comfort to it's passengers 3) on-time? This is taken right out of the MNR operations manual! How does an open house support operational objectives?

It would not be prudent that an agency with a financial crisis to sponsor a non-essential event as an open-house. If the financial situation would ever change, I would love to see the open house come back. I'm sure the new shops would be interesting to many people with all the upgrades from the old shop. But when MTA agencies are accused of wasting millions of dollars it would wise to curtail spending on things that are non-essential so as not to fuel the fire. That's all I'm saying. Keep in mind that the open house was stopped in order to build the new (award winning)Harmon Shops as well -wouldn't that support operational objectives even more?
Hurry up and wait at the signal!

Trainer
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Re: Open House at Harmon Shops

Post by Trainer » Fri Sep 02, 2011 11:35 am

RearOfSignal wrote:
Trainer wrote:Yes, MN is a business, and perhaps it should be operated as one. The purpose of an open house is not to make railfans happy - it is an opportunity to distrubute public relations messages that support operational objectives.
How does an open house support operational objectives?
Oh, public support for little things like bonding for new train sets... route expansions... that new Award-winning shop and similar behind-the-scenes operations...

In fact, I wouldn't be at all surprised if there is a bunch of suits sitting around a table right at this moment looking at a map, shaking their heads, and saying to each other "Gosh, that Port Jervis line is really torn up, and is going to be out for at least a year. Commuters are going to have to learn to live without it for a long time. It's going to cost a fortune to fix, and we don't have it. We know what the riders would say, but they're only a very small % of taxpayers. How upset do you think the voters would be if we decided to drop the line after the breaks and not repair it at all? After all, it loses money on a good day, and there's a lot of other things the voters would like that we could use that money for...."

Are they going to say "Well, with all that bad press they've been getting lately, it should be easy to push that through. The papers will support us when we tell them all the social programs that we're going to divert those funds to".

Or will they say "Hold the phone. I saw an article last month about how great that service is and the pictures showed hundred of people turned out to an open house event they held. The papers got behind the event and it's going to be a hard sell to now turn things around and say the service isn't really needed. Let's rethink how we proceed".

It's a game, but unless we play it, and play it well, someone else wins it.

truck6018
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Re: Open House at Harmon Shops

Post by truck6018 » Fri Sep 02, 2011 11:49 am

Train322 wrote:
Is Croton Harmon a 24/7 operation in October?
Croton Harmon is 24/7 all year long!

truck6018
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Re: Open House at Harmon Shops

Post by truck6018 » Fri Sep 02, 2011 12:14 pm

Trainer wrote:
It's a game, but unless we play it, and play it well, someone else wins it.
I'm not going to say your arguments are without merit but the general public will think of the bad before the good.

You make the argument about hospitals. How there are open houses at the hospitals with meet and greets, etc. Comparing a hospital and Metro North is far from equal. Hospitals compete with one another. I have two within 10 minutes from my house. There are two more with in a half hour from my house competing for my business.

Metro North has no competitors. They are the only game in town for rail travel to and from NYC for it's price. Amtrak is an alternative for some but the same ride could be anywhere from $10 to $20 more depending on the time of travel. Amtrak also doesn't offer as frequent service that Metro North does so it's not a fair comparison. Sure, some could drive in to Manhattan, but again, not a fair comparison as the costs involved with driving, in most cases, would exceed the cost of rail fare.

Additionally, for a hospital to hold an open house, it's still business as usual at the hospital as the ER stays open, and general operations are still carried out. The only real "inconvenience" is peoples time as the CEO may have to schedule meetings around the event, etc. You also might loose a corner of the lobby or a meeting room.

For the railroad to hold the open house at Harmon yards operations cease for days between set up, the day of the event and clean up. That is days that work isn't getting done and repairs are piling up. Then it will take many more days to play catch up.
Last edited by truck6018 on Fri Sep 02, 2011 12:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.

pbass
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Re: Open House at Harmon Shops

Post by pbass » Fri Sep 02, 2011 12:16 pm

I spent 32 years on the railroad starting with Penn Central in 1973 before retiring. I saw the system in it's poorest condition it was ever in with PC and Conrail. The MTA is serious about it's obligation to provide the best service it can with the limited amount of funding it is given. Except for the New Haven Line, the equipment is modern,reliable and so is the infrastructure. Ridership is at an all time high so the MTA must be doing some thing right to lure more people to avail themselves of the service provided. Metro-North is not the only MTA agency to hold open houses or railfan trips,nor the only rail operator in the country to sponsor these events.I was on duty for most open houses and was impressed with the public's interest and questions regarding the displays. The only negative feed back i'm hearing is on this sight.When the rebuilding of Harmon is completed in hope there will be another open house to show the public that their money is well spent to modernize and maintain this system in the best operable condition for years to come.

truck6018
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Re: Open House at Harmon Shops

Post by truck6018 » Fri Sep 02, 2011 12:24 pm

pbass wrote: Except for the New Haven Line, the equipment is modern,reliable and so is the infrastructure.
And it's the New Haven Line that is not completely funded by the MTA. The blame for the equipment is the fault of CDOT.

pbass
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Re: Open House at Harmon Shops

Post by pbass » Fri Sep 02, 2011 2:04 pm

A minor trivial technicality. Not vital in the over all scheme.

Train322
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Re: Open House at Harmon Shops

Post by Train322 » Fri Sep 02, 2011 7:23 pm

Thanks PBass - it seems the only negativity is on this forum regarding the open house.

Yes - it is for rail fans and if you ride ten times a week, perhaps the last thin you want to see on the weekend is a train.

Still - it was a way to show how much work and $'s are involved in running the railroad safely.

I would think the open house is a way for the people behind the scenes to show to the public what they should be proud of. Metro North is not just the Engineer and the Conductor.

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