Friday, January 30, 2009

“Texas T-Bone”

The “T-Bone” needs our help. No other state can claim this name – and if the new high-speed rail proposal gains traction, we’d really have something to brag about. In fact, prospective consumers of alternative travel in Texas learned more about the train plan yesterday from a Houston Chronicle article by Peggy Fikac:

The idea of high-speed rail is being pushed again in a big way in Texas, and backers hope to have $12 billion to $18 billion high-speed trains running by 2020. This time, they say they have taken care to ensure the idea won’t fall flat the way a bullet-train push did some 15 years ago.

Here’s a mouthful: The Texas High Speed Rail and Transportation Corporation. It’s the non-profit behind the new plan to achieve high-speed Texas rail in 10 years. “T-Bone” is the shape of the travel corridor between Dallas and San Antonio, with a Houston leg meeting the line in Temple. (That’s “256 miles shorter than running the bases on the straight line.”)

Although Houston’s Judge Robert Eckels is Chairman, some people are afraid this routing arrangement represents a highjack by “people” in Dallas. I’d like to hear more about that.

Texas could have started a new rail system in the mid-90s if Southwest Airlines hadn’t been so frightened by the competition. Now, with the new administration in Washington and an economic demand for better travel options makes rail at least conceivable again. Finally.

But the Texas-T-Bone could benefit from our savvy…the help of sharp graphic designers, art directors and copywriters to start with. Ladies and gentlemen, the THSRTX website needs substantial improvements in styling and navigation. The logo could be better, stronger and more evocative of the “romance of the rail.” Then a talented PR group ought to get involved.

Let’s take it all a step or two further. The T-Bone’s a consumer product (despite the politicians and governmental bodies, NGOs and corporations who are the start-up stakeholders in the venture). That means consumer rules apply: A sense of style is critical to promoting acceptance. I’m going to come back to this point again and again in future posts. High-speed rail is too good an opportunity to screw up this time around.

Got a T-Bone stake? If you do, let me know…get yourself on board before the thing leaves the station. Meanwhile, I’m going to drop a line to the executive director to determine the Corporation’s interest in taking on a professional creative team.

Many, many thanks to Stacy Allen, Prism Design, for revising the antique British Rail poster specially for this blog post. Just what did the people who ran the railroads a hundred years ago know about marketing that has since been forgotten?

1 comment:

Richard Laurence Baron said...

Go to and search for "Acela Advertising Campaign." You'll find Stuart Elliot's February 2nd column on the new ads from Arnold DC, for the Amtrak Acela trains. Persuasive stuff. It shows what can be done to position alternative transportation against cramped airplanes. (Also, the TV executions are reminiscent of the film "Stranger than Fiction.") The campaign's funded at the $9 million level.