Fighting to Protect Daily Service: Day On The Hill Follow-Up
September 4, 2020
By T.J. Girsch, Vice Chair
Back in 2015, I wrote a “Beginner’s Guide” to our annual Day on the Hill event, and I continue to be flattered by how many of our members have found it – and continue to find it – useful. In that guide, I wrote the following:
Keep following up: As issues of interest come up (e.g., when [the Association] sends out an action alert), contact the person or persons with whom you met directly, rather than [just] sending a simple form letter. This is far more effective, and helps build the relationship. You want them to recognize your name, and to think of you when rail issues come up.
With daily service under dire and imminent threat, now is the time to leverage those relationships you’ve been building. The entire point of our Day on the Hill events is to build and foster those relationships for moments like this.
If you’ve participated in our Day on the Hill events, a great way to help us in our final push to save daily service is to personally reach out to your contacts – by e-mail, phone call or both – and stress to them how important it is to prevent these cuts from taking effect.
It’s best to personalize the message and, where possible, make specific references to things you discussed with your contacts during your Hill meetings, but below is a sample of what I’ve sent to one of my contacts. Notice that I personalized it to my region (Massachusetts) so that my contacts recognize the local impact in addition to the national impact. Also notice that I did not include links or attachments in the e-mail, to prevent it from tripping a spam filter.
We all need to attack this from every possible angle, but following up with your established legislative contacts is one of the best and most effective ways you can help. Let’s get out there and make some noise.
One final note: A multi-pronged approach makes our advocacy even more effective. So it’s not a choice between calling, taking action via our action center or calling your representative and senators. It’s best to do all three of those things!
Thanks, and good luck!
Sample e-mail below:
I hope this finds you well. By now, you've probably heard about Amtrak's proposed service cuts, which would reduce frequency on its long-distance routes – including the Lake Shore Limited, which serves Boston, Framingham, Worcester, Springfield and Pittsfield, and provides the only East-West passenger rail west of Worcester – to three times per week rather than daily, effective October 1. You may also have seen our responses to it, and the recent NY Times article in which we explain and justify our opposition. (If you have not, I'll be happy to pass both along).
Our fierce opposition will come as no surprise to you. After fighting so hard to obtain record levels of funding for Amtrak, we cannot and must not allow them to shirk their responsibility to provide at least daily service to the communities it serves. They cannot be allowed to use the pandemic as an excuse to cut off smaller communities when if anything, the pandemic increases the importance of that service to those towns. The even larger fear is that based on past history (with routes such as the Cardinal and Sunset Limited), once service is reduced, it's exceedingly difficult to restore it to previous levels. We do not want 3x weekly service to become the "new normal" in the post-pandemic world, and continue to insist on at least daily service. So we're asking the Representative to do whatever is necessary to remind Amtrak of its core mission and compel them to carry it out. Any support he and you can give will be greatly appreciated. Feel free to call or e-mail with any additional questions or concerns.
[Title if council member or just “Member”], Rail Passengers Association
[City/State] (Especially important if you’re a constituent)
"We would not be in the position we’re in if it weren’t for the advocacy of so many of you, over a long period of time, who have believed in passenger rail, and believe that passenger rail should really be a part of America’s intermodal transportation system."
Secretary Ray LaHood, U.S. Department of Transportation
2011 Spring Council Meeting