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Reaching Out to Your Elected Officials

Today, every member of Congress can shape public transportation’s most important funding and policy issues. During APTA’s Legislative Conference, you will have the opportunity to share your priorities and perspectives with your representatives and senators. Are you ready?

Before Your Visit —

* Research your congressional dele­gation’s views and votes on public transportation. Keep in mind that “junior” members of Congress can sometimes have as much influence as senior members. Remember, all 535 members of Congress (435 in the House, 100 in the Senate) have one vote each.

* Schedule an appointment now! This is a priority since members’ schedules fill up quickly. While some legislators may be approachable during APTA’s Legislative Conference, you will make a more impactful impression on members of Congress and their staffs if you request a meeting in advance.

* Consider bringing together both public sector and business members to the appointment to show the full impact of public transportation in the legislator’s district.

* Create a one-page fact sheet with key facts about your organization, including number of employees, passengers and areas served, how your agency benefits the member’s constituents, and your needs and future plans. Be prepared to leave copies for the member and staff, along with your contact information.

* Use APTA resources, including the industry footprint, etc. APTA will have position papers and brochures on hand at the Resource Center.

* Prepare your elevator speech. Your member of Congress may have limited time, so practice delivering your message in a concise way. The goal is to make sure he or she knows who you are and the organization you represent, why you’re in Washington, and what you’re asking for.

During Your Visit —
* Be prepared for schedules to change unexpectedly. You’re visiting your elected officials at their place of work, which means they are attending hearings, casting votes in the House or Senate ­chamber, and attending meetings on and off Capitol Hill.

* Also, since 2018 is an election year, your members may be busier than usual. This is not to say that your message isn’t important, but you may need to deliver your elevator speech and one-pager during a 10-minute chat or a power walk through the U.S. Capitol.

* Be amiable, calm and positive. Regardless of your political views or affiliation, public transit is a bipartisan issue. And whatever position your elected official takes on any issue, remain gracious and open to continuing the dialogue via email.

* Ask questions. What are the issues of most concern to your member? Look for opportunities to attach your message to the elected official’s priorities. Start by finding out what’s most important to him or her, not with a canned message about what you want, and then pivot to how public transportation can play a role.

After Your Visit —

* Follow up with an email or letter thanking the member for his or her time. This also offers another opportunity to reiterate your message. If additional information has been requested—or promised by you—be sure to provide it quickly. This will show that you’re responsive to the elected official’s needs and you’re a reliable source of solid facts.

* Remember—each encounter, handshake, and meet-and-greet has the potential to strengthen connections and increase APTA’s influence in Congress and beyond. Good luck!
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