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.