Happening Now

Upcoming Webinar Series and RailNation: DC Meeting Registration

April 30, 2020

Back on March 9th when I told you about our postponement, I sincerely hoped three months’ time would be enough to be able to bring everyone together in June. Given the persistence of the coronavirus threat across our country, however, I’ve decided in consultation with your Board of Directors to reschedule all meetings until 2021.

I know many of you looked forward to meeting face-to-face as an Association. You aren’t alone. The staff and I, too, look forward to the Spring Summit and Day On The Hill activities. It puts us front and center with decision makers on Capitol Hill and it gives all of us a chance to share our successes -- and there have been so many in the past few months! But we have to embrace a new way of conducting business, at least temporarily.

My message today includes details (below) on how we will all move ahead with rescheduling. But I’m also including outlines for what I hope you’ll agree are exciting plans to keep the energy going, to keep our message in front of the people who will decide rail’s future, and to do an even better job of supporting YOU in your efforts to focus on projects in your community that are most important to you, alongside your help fighting for national passenger rail priorities.

Spring Meeting, Hotel Planning And Options

First and foremost, thank you for registering for RailNation: DC 2020!

I am working with our hotel partner for new dates in the Spring of 2021. Much will depend on the hotel’s book of business, the degree to which we and other groups may incur financial penalties, how many other groups have cancelled, along with other factors which frankly are out of our control such as local or state restrictions. Even so, we’re doing our best to secure new 2021 dates that are closer to our traditional dates -- April 4 through April 7. As soon as I know more, I’ll be sure to share it with you.

Meanwhile, because we are postponing until 2021, I’m offering the options below for your consideration.

  • Apply your 2020 registration fee to RailNation:DC 2021. If you choose this option, you will be locked in at the 2020 rate no matter what. So, if event registration fees were to be higher in 2021, you would still owe nothing further to the Association.

  • Consider donating your RailNation:DC 2020 registration fees to the Association. Like many other non-profit organizations, we are seeing real financial impacts from the COVID-19 crisis, and we would appreciate your generosity. You will receive a tax receipt for your records showing your donation. If you register for RailNation:DC 2021 you will be paying the 2021 event registration rate.

  • Request a refund. If you register for RailNation:DC 2021 you will be paying the 2021 event registration rate, which could be higher.

The above options only relate to fees paid to the Rail Passengers Association. You will need to contact the Embassy Suites by Hilton in Old Town Alexandria to cancel your hotel reservations. Remember to also reach out to your travel provider to better understand the options available to you. Please make sure you mention that the event you were traveling to attend was postponed to 2021 due to the coronavirus.

Please send an email to Jonsie Stone, [email protected], with your preference. Include in the subject line RailNation:DC Registration Option. This way we can be sure we don’t overlook anyone’s responses.

Staying In Front Of Policymakers While Also Staying At Home

While the virus risk and new health and safety restrictions have indefinitely delayed our ability to gather in place, the work our Association is doing still needs to continue. In fact, our work will become even more important in the coming months. That’s because any new infrastructure bill, or even a rescue bill with an infrastructure component, will give us opportunities to implement meaningful change in the travel choices available to Americans. But there’s also a real risk that, if we aren’t in the room -- or, now, “on the screen,” -- Congress could continue to further subsidize our overbuilt highway system. Now is not the time for us to go silent.

Knowing the challenges facing us, I asked Sean Jeans-Gail and the policy team to come up with a series of meaty and meaningful online briefings and interactive training sessions that all of you can take part in, both Council and our general membership.

Starting May 27th, and continuing every month afterwards, we’ll be organizing a series of online events for anyone who wants to keep informed, stay involved, and upgrade their personal organizing and advocacy skills. The idea is to give you the knowledge, the background, and the practical tips you’ll need to help us carry on this work from wherever you are. We’ve already started developing programs to cover the following:

  • National Briefing (May 27): Beginning with a dive into policy, we will review the first four phases of coronavirus legislation and what it means to current service levels for Amtrak and transit; future needs for transit and rail in any upcoming packages; updates on transportation legislation that is currently in play; and strategies for ensuring passenger rail projects are included in any upcoming infrastructure packages.

  • Online Advocacy 101: Focusing on communications and messaging, our team will provide a walkthrough of best practices for engaging an audience using the new digital tools and social media, gaining the attention of policy makers through online channels, free online platforms for hosting regional meetings and conferences, and more.

  • Corridor Spotlights: Our field team will coordinate with our Council Members and local groups to provide regional updates on corridor development initiatives, speakers from state rail groups to help provide vital local context, and opportunities to get personally involved at the local level.

  • Transportation Stakes in the 2020 Elections: The policy staff will walk you through potential outcomes in the 2020 general elections and their projected impact on transportation policy at the federal level, key national- and state-level races to watch, and any state and local transit initiatives on the ballot [Rail Passengers is a 501(c)(3) and is prohibited by law from endorsing any political candidates].

Our team wants to hear from you about any additional topics you’d like us to cover:

  • Is there a specific corridor or region you’d like us to focus on?

  • Have an idea for a campaign, but need to see how the policy team would go about creating a communications strategy and ground game?

  • Do you have questions about how a federal grant program works?

Help us understand what you need to be a more effective voice for passengers in your region! Please reach out to Joe Aiello ([email protected], Subject: Webinar Topics) with topics and questions you’d like addressed in any upcoming Rail Passengers briefings.

We’re All Working Together

I hope after reading this note you understand and appreciate how hard your professional staff is working to make sure the pandemic restrictions don’t silence your voices as decisions get made about passenger rail’s future in the United States. It really is that important. Please consider applying your 2020 RailNation:DC registration fee to next year’s event or simply making it a donation. And please also plan to take part in as many of our new online events as you can.

We look forward to working together to represent the interests of America’s passengers over the coming months!

Jim Mathews
President & CEO