The following suggestions—compiled by legislative consultant Shawna Russell and APTA’s government affairs team—can help APTA members plan and conduct successful congressional visits.
Who: Decide early who to visit, especially if your system or business has operations in more than one congressional district.
What: Plan your talking points by focusing on how your system or business benefits the member’s home territory through community growth, hiring practices and programs, and quality of life issues, and addressing public transportation’s national role. Practice, and if you’re visiting with a colleague, make sure you know who’s going to cover each topic.
When: Submit your request for an appointment in writing (e-mail is fine) at least 30 days in advance of your trip to Washington, DC. Be flexible in terms of your visit’s scheduling and duration. Even a 10-minute conversation can be effective.
Where: Leave enough time to navigate security (at least 15 minutes, depending on the time of your arrival), remember to have picture identification, and allow for 15-20 minutes to get from one appointment to the next, even if they are in the same building.
Why: Make your “ask”—the action you want the member to take on behalf of public transportation. Be prepared to connect your request with the member’s constituency and state how you can help him or her back home. Also be prepared to act on the member’s response to your ask.
How: Keep these additional tips in mind:
* Be prompt, patient, and productive. Remember that members of Congress want to serve you and their other constituents.
* Organize and present background information in a folder that includes your contact information.
* Be familiar with the member’s background and voting record on issues related to public transportation.
* Take care to not get sidetracked by friendly conversations about mutual acquaintances or events back home, especially if your visit is a short one.
* Invite the member to tour your facility, meet with riders and employees, and attend events. Add staffers to your distribution lists for newsletters and press releases.
* Know your stuff—be ready to answer questions and provide additional information. Be concise, speak plainly, and try to avoid “transit-speak.”
* Follow up, including sending a thank-you note that recaps the meeting. That’s when the real work starts.