"Effective Rail Advocacy"
by Christopher Parker
What you see at trackside is directly shaped by government policy. Amtrak depends upon public support of course, but whether freight moves by rail or truck also is a consequence of policy and investment -- including investment in the competition, at railroad's expense. But the good news is we do still live in a democracy and politicians do listen.
There is quite an impressive legacy of accomplishments that rail fans have won. Success can be ours! But there is a way to be effective, which starts by knowing that politics is about personal relationships. We who like railroads tend to think about the locomotives, the track, the schedules, but much of railroading has always been very personal, and so it is in this regard.
As fans, many of us are experts in the technology of railroading and know intimately the importance and value of Amtrak and other priorities. We can provide leaders with real expertise if we can translate it into a language they can hear.
Christopher Parker was fascinated by trains as a child. Befriended by local train crews at 11, he learned everything he could about the industry and hired on with the Cape Cod & Hyannis Railroad as a Trainman and later became a Conductor and marketing manager for the Cape Cod Central Railroad. He has also written articles for several publications about the industry, including Trains Magazine and Atlantic Northeast Rail & Ports. He's especially interested in service design - the interplay between operations and marketing. In his twenties, he went to seminary and worked for Quaker non-profit organizations (as a youth worker, fundraiser and Executive Director/founder), then became an interim minister in Vermont before becoming Vermont Rail Action Network Executive Director at the beginning of 2008. He also teaches, does some transportation market-research consulting and a bit of web design work (you can hire him).
Christopher has lived in Windham County Vermont since 2001. An avid contra dancer and hiker, he's on the board of the Vermont Bike/Ped Coaltion and the Brattleboro Dawn Dance Committee.