The huge elephant in the room is CAHSR -- the state seems unwilling at the moment to invest in major improvements to traditional rail service between SoCal, Central CA, and the Bay Area.These same folks did a bunch of research and came up with a Sacramento focused service plan, including cutting one train from Bakersfield. It was an enormous failure.
Pure coincidence, Im sure, but all of them are based in the north valley and probably have never been to Bakersfield.
The busiest traffic driver to the San Joaquin is actually LA. All the data told them this, but they ignored it.
SJJPA was looking for something that they could do that would complement the future HSR business plan.
Personally, I think it's a bad idea to focus on the "Merced and north" market until HSR is closer to completion -- but that's where the political winds are blowing.