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Chef and Passenger Rail Advocate Completes 6,000-Mile Odyssey

August 26, 2019

Chef and Passenger Rail Advocate Completes 6,000-Mile “Summer By Rail” Food Odyssey Across U.S.

For Immediate Release (19-14)

Rail Passengers Association Accepting Candidate Interest for 2020

(Washington D.C.) - Passenger rail advocate and Escoffier-grad Madi Butler, 27, finished the best summer job in America which took her nearly 6,000 miles around the country by train starting in Portland, ME and ending in San Francisco, CA this week. The "Summer By Rail” adventure lasted more than 50 days and included stops in 22 cities where she sampled local fare and cooked alongside some of the country’s most inspiring chefs. Throughout the trip, Butler wrote extensively about the journey in a blog chronicling the people she met and the cultures they experienced along the way. Madi also engaged public and elected officials to advocate for the country’s national rail network as well as affordability and accessibility for regional commuters. Butler designed the trip in partnership with Rail Passengers Association Field Coordinator Joe Aiello to highlight how robust, multi-modal transportation networks can bring long-term economic growth and prosperity to rural and urban communities simultaneously.

“On my trip I saw first-hand how Amtrak’s long distance routes, paired with regional public transit services bring people together in a myriad of ways. I was able to highlight diverse destinations during Summer By Rail, showing how people of all walks of life can use public transportation to experience new cultures and flavors. This is a trip anyone can take. By traversing regions and learning about foodie cities both historic and new, we can bring people together.”

Butler’s transit and culinary exploration began on June 28 in Portland, ME and wrapped up on August 20 in San Francisco. Zigzagging from East to West, Butler visited a variety of cities including Boston; New York City; Greenwood, MS; Charlotte, NC; Atlanta, GA; New Orleans, LA; Memphis, TN; Tucson, AZ; Albuquerque, NM; Los Angeles and many beautiful towns in between. While in each city, Butler visited a variety of foodie locales - whether it's a trendy deli like Frankel’s in Brooklyn, or a historic destination such as The Four Way in Memphis, Butler applied their culinary prowess to find a variety of eateries across the States.

“In a time of contention, food can be a great unifier. It is easier to have conversations about change and transportation advocacy while breaking bread and communing over a good meal,” Butler said. “Adventures like this are only possible thanks to the workers of the hospitality and food service industries who strive to make these dreams a reality”

During the trip, Butler shared their time on the train, visits to restaurants, meetings with local politicians and transit organizations, and the overall importance of passenger rail and public transportation at www.summerbyrail.com. Madi also visualized the first hand narrative via Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.

“Summer by Rail” 2019 was the fourth year that the Rail Passengers Association has organized the initiative to highlight train travel in a way that is inclusive of the Millenial and Gen Z perspective. The effort began in 2016 as a way to show America that people are not solely reliant on cars or airlines to see the country and try new things.

Past "Summer By Rail” trips have featured a variety of themes. In 2018, Jacob Wallace toured more than 20 of America’s baseball stadiums. In 2017, two correspondents looked at culture and fashion across America. And in 2016, Elena Studier took her bike “Stevie” on her train journey and set out to see national parks and other natural sites via the rail network. The 2020 theme has not yet been set, but Rail Passengers is accepting ideas and interest from potential job candidates.

“’Summer By Rail’ demonstrates how people should think about travel in the U.S.,” said Rail Passengers President and CEO Jim Mathews. “America’s train network can take you right into a major metropolitan city or it can take you to the open range or even a national park, but many people don’t look at passenger rail travel that closely. When they’re in a tube in the air, it’s too easy to miss all the great things on the ground.”

There were a number of great individuals and groups that also made “Summer By Rail” possible from start to finish. For the first time, in 2019 paid sponsors helped Rail Passengers organize the trip and welcomed Butler to their cities, including:

Rail Passengers is already planning for Summer by Rail 2020. Anyone who is interested in serving as the correspondent for Summer By Rail, please visit the “About” section at www.summerbyrail.com, and click “Interested in Becoming the Next SBR Intern.” Sponsors interested in supporting Summer By Rail 2020 can contact business development director Jonsie Stone at [email protected].


About the Rail Passengers Association

The Rail Passengers Association is the oldest and largest national organization speaking for the nearly 40 million users of passenger trains and rail transit. We have worked since 1967 to expand the quality and quantity of passenger rail in the U.S. Our mission is to work towards a modern, customer-focused national passenger train network that provides a travel choice Americans want. Our work is supported by more than 28,000 individual members nationwide.