Jim Mathews - President + CEO
Jim Mathews is President & CEO of the Rail Passengers Association, a nationwide 501c3 nonprofit representing some 40 million American rail travelers, advocates and citizens across the U.S. who are working for better, safer, and more widely available transit and intercity rail choices. In this role, Mathews leads a professional staff with responsibility for strategy-setting, innovation, policy formation, legislative strategy, and business operations.
Mathews serves, or has served on, six U.S. Federal government advisory panels, and has testified or presented briefs before Congressional committees, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), and the U.S. Surface Transportation Board. Current appointments include the FRA’s Rail Safety Advisory Committee, the Passenger Rail Working Group, and the Hazardous Materials Working Group, as well as a committee advising the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), working to resolve bottlenecks in the U.S. surface-transportation network that are slowing down the supply of vital medical equipment (masks, respirators, needles, sharps boxes, personal-protective equipment, etc.).
Mathews served for four years on the U.S. Dept. of Transportation's National Advisory Committee on Travel & Tourism Infrastructure, appointed in 2016 by President Obama's DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx and re-appointed during the Trump Administration by DOT Secretary Elaine Chao. Mathews was the principal drafter of the NACTTI final report for Congress and DOT in 2020.
Mathews joined the Association in 2014 after a 26-year career at Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine, where he rose to Executive Editor. There, Mathews wrote more than 17,000 articles, travelled to 114 cities in 38 countries and flew more than 40 distinct aircraft types, including the F-16, the L-39, the IA.63 Pampa, the C-17 cargo aircraft, Airbus A319, A320 and A380, and Boeing 737 and 777.
A lifelong train traveler with a deep-rooted vision for a robust national passenger train network within the U.S., Mathews believes rail can be an economic engine in the communities it serves, a potentially transformative mode in an ever-changing transportation landscape and the most environmentally responsible way to meet the transportation challenges of the 21st century. As a volunteer, Mathews served on the Amtrak Customer Advisory Committee for six years, including two years leading the ACAC as chairman.
Sean Jeans-Gail - Vice President of Policy + Government Affairs
Sean Jeans-Gail (sjeansgail[@]narprail.org) works as Vice President of Policy + Government Affairs for Rail Passengers Association. He joined the association in 2008 as Director of Communications.
Jeans-Gail entered the transportation sector as a field director on a ballot measure campaign that successfully closed loopholes in Oregon’s land use-laws—laws originally enacted by renowned conservationist Governor Tom McCall. He has worked in the industry for over a decade, directing national grassroots advocacy campaigns and serving as a spokesman for transit and passenger rail. In addition to overseeing federal policy, Jeans-Gail is in charge of Rail Passengers Association’s field organizing team, which supports passenger-centric legislation and voter initiatives at the state and municipal level.
A native of Portland, Oregon, he holds a B.A. in philosophy from the University of Oregon, where he was on the Dean’s list and a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society. He also served on Capitol Hill as a Congressional Intern.
Joseph Aiello - National Field Coordinator
Boston transplant hailing from the Southside of Chicago, son of a Teamster, grandson of a Senator, Joe works tirelessly to assure the safety and security of urban commuters and the future of high speed rail. From his time as an Executive Board Member of East Cambridge Planning Team, to acquiring his MPA - Public Administration at Northeastern University under former MA Governor Michael Dukakis, Joe has been dedicated to the betterment of his community at large and pursues every opportunity to advocate for commuters. Through his current tenure as Field Coordinator for the Association and as former Community Outreach Liaison for the North-South Rail Link, Joe is networking, coalition building, and campaigning for better transportation connectivity. He has won numerous advances for the field at large.
Madison Butler - Communications Manager
Grassroots Activist and Small Town enthusiast, Madison spent the summer of 2019 providing extensive coverage of the national network visiting over 25 towns in 50 days advocating for long-distance rail and rural accessibility. With a decade of nonprofit experience — including Lexington Area Musician Alliance, Food Not Bombs, multiple LGBTQIAA+ groups, Anti-Racist Action, Kentucky Workers League, CO Prop 64 Campaign, PHX No on Prop 105, Rail Passengers Association, Woodford County Humane Society, and the Woodford Theater — they are committed to the intersectional advancement of civil rights for all.
Samantha Brown - Membership Associate
Samantha is a native Washingtonian and a lifetime Washington Metro commuter. She attended Duke Ellington School of the Arts' music program, with a concentration in voice. She attended the Hartt School of Music at the University of Hartford, where she made the Dean’s list (’99) and received her Bachelor of Music ('03). She is thrilled to return to Rail Passengers, bolstering her professional career in customer service after over a decade spent in the banking industry and various other customer service and administrative roles.
"It is an honor to be recognized by the Rail Passengers Association for my efforts to strengthen and expand America’s passenger rail. Golden spikes were once used by railroads to mark the completion of important rail projects, so I am truly grateful to receive the Golden Spike Award as a way to mark the end of a career that I’ve spent fighting to invest in our country’s rail system. As Chair of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, it has been my priority to bolster funding for Amtrak, increase and expand routes, look to the future by supporting high-speed projects, and improve safety, culminating in $66 billion in new funding in the Bipartisan infrastructure Law."
Representative Peter DeFazio (OR-04)
March 30, 2022, on receiving the Association's Golden Spike Award for his years of dedication and commitment to passenger rail.