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MEDIA ADVISORY: Rail Passengers Field Team Heads to the South

January 7, 2020

Rail Passengers Puts Boots On The Ground To Fight For More And Better Trains In The U.S. Southeast

January 7, 2020

For Immediate Release (20-1)

Contact: Madison Butler, [email protected]

Rail Passengers Puts Boots On The Ground To Fight For More And Better Trains In The U.S. Southeast

Washington, D.C.-- The Rail Passengers Association field staff heads south January 11th for a thirteen-day trip to kick off 2020’s fight for more service in the region, meeting with local officials, rail groups and economic leaders.

Invited by several officials to return following the Summer by Rail initiative in 2019, Field Coordinator Joe Aiello and Grassroots Organizer Madi Butler in their meetings will promote the economic incentives passenger rail has brought to towns along the City of New Orleans and Crescent routes. They will also address the potential benefits of restoring Gulf Coast passenger rail and other potential services and improvements.

Highlights include meetings with Mississippi Mayors Carolyn McAdams (Greenwood) Percy Bland (Meridian) and Andrew “FoFo” Gillich (Biloxi), returning to the now-open Central Station Hotel in Memphis, and a “Members, Friends and Officials” meetup at Port Orleans Brewing Co. in New Orleans co-hosted by Association Director Andrew Lodriguss. The team hopes during the visit to expand membership, make the case for more and better trains, and promote the work our local chapters and affiliated groups are doing in a region that truly needs more accessible intercity and commuter rail service.

“Having spent my childhood in the South, this opportunity means so much to me personally,” Butler said. “I want to fight for better service not only for the direct economic benefits, but also for the autonomy public transportation provides to all passengers. By meeting with local officials, press, and Rail Passengers members en route we can use our platform to highlight the improvements these communities deserve as well as set plans to support advocates at all levels.”

The team will first take the City of New Orleans southbound from Memphis stopping in Greenwood, MS on the way to the Big Easy. From there, it will be buses across to Biloxi and Mobile. This is a crucial experience and real opportunity to highlight how these replacement services do not carry the same quantifiable economic benefits as a rail station as well as highlight why and how these things can be changed for the better with increased support, education, and activism. The last leg by rail will be Meridian, MS to Birmingham, AL on the Crescent. Meridian has a fantastic intermodal station and active downtown showing just how successful former Mayor John Robert Smith’s plan has been and what the results of that work have done for their community in terms of tourism and long-term job creation.

"This is my first time experiencing the state of transit in the deep south. I am looking forward to meeting community leaders, highlighting policy development and long-term infrastructure improvements we support,” Aiello remarked. “The City of New Orleans and Crescent routes have boosted economic opportunity for towns that have made their stations a featured destination. Restoration of the Gulf Coast service is a crucial step in the advancement of passenger rail and the towns that support it."

About the Rail Passengers Association

The Rail Passengers Association is the oldest and largest national organization serving as a voice for the more than 40 million rail passengers in the U.S. Our mission is to improve and expand conventional intercity and regional passenger train services, support higher speed rail initiatives, increase connectivity among all forms of transportation and ensure safety for our country's trains and passengers. All of this makes communities safer, more accessible and more productive, improving the lives of everyone who lives, works and plays in towns all across America.