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Consultant takes Manteca for a ride

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POSTED May 8, 2014 12:55 a.m.

What’s in a name?

That’s the $64,000 question – give or take several thousand dollars – facing the Manteca City Council.

A stealth-like consulting firm hired on the taxpayers’ dime conducted four public hearings and did direct mail surveys to come up with a solution to get more people to use municipal buses – rebrand them.

In fairness to Moore & Associates, exploring rebranding was one of the tasks they were assigned when the city, with the council’s blessing, hired them. Since they were being paid using federal grants the expenditure was given about as much thought as a gambling addict gives to stuffing quarters in a slot machine.

Not only was Moore & Associate’s outreach dubious at best, but they based their rebranding recommendations on a grand total of six people that attended four community meetings out of a city of 72,000.

At any rate, the council now has two options for new names for Manteca Transit and three options for a new logo to splash on the side of its municipal bus fleet.

The consultant – who apparently found nothing in Manteca worthy or interesting enough to incorporate into a graphic – is pleased that Manteca is reflected in the proposed logos through the use of red, white and blue colors that are encompassed in the city seal. That was a lot of heavy lifting since the current bus colors employ red, white and blue. The city was able to come up with that eight years ago without paying a consultant to tell them the obvious.

As for the name, the consultant left no stone unturned to come up with a catchy name that could be used to raise the marketing profile of the transit service that attracts between 4,000 and 5,000 riders a month. Manteca Transit is so passé. Before you read on make sure that you are sitting down because you are going to be so “wowed” by the genius your tax dollars inspired that it’ll knock you off your feet. Ready? The two new proposed names for Manteca Transit are “Manteca Ride” and “Manteca City Transit” or – in the spirit of BART and ACE – MCT for short.

Now there’s a catchy and representative acronym if $10,000 in tax dollars ever bought one – MCT.

The piece de resistance is the graphic element of the logo. It is an artsy rolling abstract-style line.

So how does this represent Manteca? Perhaps it is a reference to the city’s rolling hills better known as overpasses. Or maybe it symbolizes the rough, deteriorating asphalt of city streets such as on South Main Street. If that’s the case it makes sense as the name “Manteca Ride” over washboard pavement gives you a nice Manteca visual.

Thank goodness the consultants didn’t bust a spleen coming up with mundane names that could have created catchy acronyms such as Manteca Bus Authority. So what if it is smart business to ride the MBA? That isn’t nearly as appealing as a proletarian inspired name such as Manteca City Transit.

The City Council is correct in being underwhelmed about the consultant’s work. They should be. Not only did they come up with a rebranding that is no improvement on what currently exists but several of their other recommendations were simply restatements of what the city knew – or should have known – from past input from riders and potential riders. There is a demand for some type of limited Saturday service and there is interest in connecting Manteca Transit service with the Altamont Corridor Express station on West Yosemite Avenue. Imagine that. A transit system connecting with another transit system. Who would have thought of that if it hadn’t been for the wisdom of a highly paid consultant?

Wait, there’s more. Isn’t the idea of rebranding and tweaking routes supposed to be to try and attract new riders a well as better serve existing riders?

Let’s be honest. You could have white buses with the words “City Bus” stenciled on the side and you are not going to lose your core group of riders. The question is how do you get others to give up their cars even if it is only once in a while to take a bus instead. The city is keyed in on federal and state concerns about unmet transit needs of those that don’t have vehicles but what about the equally important government goal of easing traffic congestion and reducing air pollution?

Perhaps it can’t be done without significantly more buses and routes. But one thing is for sure: No effort has been made to do anything beyond minimum federal requirements.

And as far as the two names and three logos suggested for the city buses, it makes as much sense as the proposal last year for the city to spend $20,000-plus to paint a mural on the new Atherton Drive water tank that you wouldn’t see once a block wall went up and landscaping matures.

One thing is for sure. If the council ultimately changes the name of Manteca Transit to Manteca Ride there would be truth in advertising given that you could argue the  consultant took Manteca for a ride.

 

This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com or 209.249.3519.

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