Democracy Is Not A Spectator Sport July 7th, 2009
Editorial by Noel T. Braymer
RailPAC, while it is non-partisan is a political organization. It is because we are involved in politics that even though we are a non-profit organization, donations to RailPAC are not tax-deductible.
Our goal is the creation of a safe, comfortable, economical and well connected rail passenger system for California and the Nation. At the heart of accomplishing this is the expansion of Long Distance Rail Passenger Service. Long Distance Trains cover most of this Country and serves the largest market for rail passenger service. This is where the money is for passenger trains and has the greatest potential for gaining broad political support for it.
Amtrak has an East Coast Orientation. After all Amtrak’s headquarters are in Washington D.C, half of Amtrak’s trains run on the East Coast and the majority of its employees work in the East. With that Amtrak’s strongest support comes from East Coast elected officials. Because of this it is easy for much of the rest of the country to feel neglected by Amtrak. It is a self-defeating tactic to attack East Coast rail service. The rail service on the East Coast in needed though it can be improved with better connections to the rest of the Country. What is needed is to work on increasing political support for good, economical and well connected rail passenger service in the rest of the Country. The place to start is developing support for an improved daily Sunset and ordering more Superliner equipment.
The great thing about being a part of on organization like RailPAC is our combined efforts are more effective than our individual efforts alone. Working together we can all do our part to improve rail passenger service. Just the fact that you are donating your hard earn money to support RailPAC is important. We can all also write or make phone calls to show our support for Rail Passenger Service. We can write or call local newspapers and TV Stations. Most importantly we can write or call our Senators and Representatives in Washington. The easiest thing to do is to write an email. This is also considered the least effective. It is easy for a few people to generate massive numbers of email to a congressional office. Most congressional offices want an address and phone number to verify an author’s identity. A hand written letter has a much higher value than an email. Next up is a personal phone call. An aide will take the call and try to sound impartial. Make you comments: either written or verbal short, polite and to the point. You can call either a local field office or the Washington Office of your elected officials. Next up in effectiveness is a personal visit to an official’s office. This can be either a field office or even better in Washington. But best of all go as part of a delegation.
The most important thing we can do is network. The best place to start is at home. You can get to know your city council. Most city council members are public people, often having small business in town and you can often see them at different meetings in town. What is great about city council members is by nature these people are good at networking. If a member of your city council is interested in rail passenger service this council member will talk to other council members in other towns. Council members often talk directly to Senators and Representatives and have more impact than delegations from citizen groups. Most of the progress we have seen in California on Rail Passenger service can be traced to enlisting the efforts of local bodies like city councils and gaining their support to push for improvements.
In order to support efforts to get a daily Sunset and orders for more rail equipment; RailPAC will need to network with other organization. This is already underway. This started with the joint resolution of NARP and RailPAC members for new Superliner equipment at our joint meeting in Los Angeles on May 2nd. Bob Manning has been busy representing RailPAC with SMART, which is a group of local associations of rail passengers on the Sunset route working for daily service extended all the way to Florida. We need to coordinate our efforts with those of other groups around the country. A successful daily Sunset will be the catalyst for other new or improved services around the country. Just keeping the service we have will require replacement Superliner equipment in a few years. Expanded service will require more equipment than what is on hand now. We must point out that we are not asking for a hand out or subsidy. We need government to make capital investments in track and equipment to create a self supporting service. This is what most countries around the world have for intercity rail passenger service.
Need help finding how to contact your elected officials? You can go to WWW.Congress.org and at their home page just type in your zip code and get the names and links to your State and Federal elected officials for your address.