Talking (and Trying to Talk) to Our Elected Reps

Early next week I’ll be leaving for the annual NARP* meeting in Washington. It will include two full days of meetings and one we call “Day on The Hill”. That’s when we break into small groups and visit our own individual members of Congress, asking support for passenger rail in general and Amtrak in particular.
Usually, most don’t actually get to see the congressman or senator** … it’s whichever of the staff is assigned to transportation issues. But most of them are genuinely interested and quite polite, if not cordial.
But not always. A couple of years ago, one of our NARP members had been assigned to call on a Republican congressman from Alabama. He was received by the congressman’s chief-of-staff and began by saying how regrettable it was that the U.S. had fallen behind most of the European countries when it comes to passenger rail, most particularly high-speed rail.
At that point, the chief-of-staff held up his hand to interrupt and say, “If y’all gonna continue to run down the United States of America, we got nothin’ further t’ discuss.”
As it happens, this time around, we’ve got plenty to discuss with our elected representatives or their staff people because Amtrak has just announced yet another ridership record set for the month of March. Furthermore, ridership in the previous six months – that is from October of 2012 through March of this year – was up 0.9 percent and that, too, set a new record.
You know what that means? What message we’ll take up onto The Hill this year? It’s simple: Americans want more trains!

** Members of the Hawaii delegation are usually an exception; more often than not, they make themselves available. (This is, after all, the Aloha State!)