By Cora Jackson-Fossett
Metrolink riders will soon hear famous voices announcing train stops. As part of its Guest Conductor Program, the rail service invited several local celebrities and community leaders to record messages and announcements.
The participants included NBA greats Norm Nixon and Byron Scott, NFL star Eric Dickerson, award-winning singer Jeffrey Osborne and actor/comedian Cedric the Entertainer. The legends united with Metrolink to promote the environmental benefits of riding the train, share commentary about points of interest along the route and acquaint passengers with various community-based organizations that are doing positive work in the Southland.
According to Metrolink CEO Stephanie Wiggins, “We have about 40,000 riders a day and about 1 million a month among the six counties that we operate in. This program is a great way to elevate awareness because people get on the train and may tune out the announcements, but when they hear Byron Scott, they will listen and that will get people more engaged.
“He’s acknowledging the smart choice that they made by riding Metrolink and that should make them feel better. And then he is telling them about another way that they can contribute on a social level,” explained Wiggins.
In Scott’s case, he talked about A Community of Friends nonprofit. Scott recently partnered with the organization in its mission to end homelessness and provide permanent supportive housing for those with mental illness,” Scott said.
“It is great that I was able to get my message out about an organization that I have so much love for and is doing so many wonderful things. I think Metrolink is doing the same thing as far as providing a service. It is a much easier way of transportation. You can rest and relax and it is great for the environment and it takes cars off the street,” he added.
Expressing similar comments, Osborne said, “Public transportation is great! Going from one point to another point is a lot easier instead of going through TSA. Going and coming is so simple when you ride public transportation. I love it!”
The positive response by Scott and Osborne confirms the success of using guest conductors. In the past, the agency recruited former Angels baseball player Tim Salmon, members of the California Assembly, Congressman Gil Cisneros and members of the Metrolink Board of Directors to record messages.
The Guest Conductor Program aligns with Wiggins’ vision of increasing the profile of the six-county, 538 route-mile system. By using Metrolink’s extensive network, riders can reduce traffic worries, save time and enjoy amenities such as clean restrooms, security courtesy of the L.A. Sherriff’s Department and charging outlets and USB ports on certain seats.
“This is a nice way to incentivize people to get out of their cars and contribute to something that will make an environmental impact,” said Wiggins. “We have 62 stations in over 50 cities. We are a part of the community and we want people to know that!”
This article originally appeared in The Los Angeles Sentinel.