What Rail Passengers Has Been Working On
April 28, 2020
Dear Rail Passengers Association Family,
I hope that you and your families are staying safe and healthy during these unprecedented times. I wanted to take this opportunity to share what the Rail Passengers team is working on during the pandemic.
COVID-19 has significantly disrupted all forms of travel. Despite the downturn in ridership and limited schedules, many forms of public transportation remain a lifeline for essential trips and front-line responders. The fight against the coronavirus could not have been mounted without the rail networks, public transportation systems, operators and sustainability investments that the Association has fought to secure for many years.
Our work has taken on new urgency during the coronavirus crisis. As Amtrak began shedding trains and states began shutting down nearly all public gatherings, the Rail Passengers Association spoke up even more loudly for the American passenger:
- Despite the closure of key congressional offices, we were able to stay connected with key contacts resulting in some positive news out of D.C. Working virtually with video conferencing, emails and good old-fashioned phone calls, the Rail Passengers Association was able to request – and secure – $1 billion for Amtrak and $16 billion for urban transit systems, with another $4 billion dedicated to rural transit systems. It was part of the $2 trillion stimulus package, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), that passed at the end of March.
- Through a “Virtual” Day on The Hill, in a single national day of action the Association delivered our message to 132 House offices and 53 Senate offices. That is an impressive feat given the many novel challenges our Council Members faced, and the chaos and short-staffing affecting most Congressional offices as they struggled to pass legislation in the face of a global pandemic. During our meetings with members of Congress and their staffs, we thanked Congress for the aid delivered to railroads and transit agencies in the Phase 3 coronavirus package; asked for meaningful funding for new equipment, more frequencies and added service; and explained how an infrastructure bill could put millions of Americans back to work building the passenger rail network our country deserves.
- Members of Congress asked for our help, in return. They asked our members and staff which rail projects we believe are the top priorities for funding, and our ideas on how to fund these programs. They wanted to know what we'd like to see in the upcoming passenger rail reauthorization, and how we can improve the passenger experience onboard Amtrak trains. Thanks to your continued strong support, we have been able to serve as a resource for struggling Congressional offices who remain committed to rebuilding America's rail network even in these troubled times.
Congress will keep considering further phases of response, which will play out over the coming weeks and months. The Rail Passengers Association believes that intercity passenger rail and transit have important roles to play in getting our country back on track, socially and economically. We’ve always said that rail is an economic engine in the communities it serves, and that’s doubly true as we try to jump-start an economy battered by worldwide pandemic. The Association stands ready with a list of shovel-ready rail projects that are able to move quickly if funding becomes available. These projects will get Americans back to work by creating construction and manufacturing. They are also investments in a better, more efficient U.S. transportation system that will return dividends for generations to come.
COVID-19 devastated passenger rail with service cuts across the country. Much of the progress we, you and I, worked so hard to achieve over the past five years has been set back – some by weeks and some by much more. But this I promise you; we will recover together through the power of human connection and the grassroots strength of communities.
Where do you plan on traveling by rail once the world has recovered from the coronavirus? Let us know and you might be featured on the Rail Passengers’ channels. Wherever it might be, whoever you are hoping to visit, our team here at the Rail Passengers Association will continue fighting for “A Connected America” so that you can get there.
Our advocacy efforts wouldn't be possible without your support. I invite you to make a contribution today to ensure we are able to amplify passengers' voices. Please stay safe and healthy -- we need each and every one of you for the fights ahead!
We hope to see you on the rails soon.
President & CEO
"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