Between August 12th and 21st, Patrick Carnahan and Charlie Hamilton led a number of meetings across Washington and Idaho in a series called the 2021 East-West Train Trek. These meetings were conducted in-person and, where possible, broadcast electronically via Zoom. Patrick and Charlie also participated in the 30th Pacific Northwest Economic Region (PNWER) Summit in Big Sky, Montana.
The purpose of this trip was to improve awareness of rail issues and opportunities in the Pacific Northwest; discover opportunities for better collaboration with stakeholders and partners; and increase the organization’s capacity to educate the public and elected officials to serve its mission and vision in line with its charter as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
During the first few days of the Train Trek, Patrick and Charlie conducted Train Trek meetings in the communities of Edmonds, Everett, Leavenworth, Wenatchee, Yakima, Toppenish, Richland, and Walla Walla, Washington; and Lewiston, Idaho.
Afterwards, they continued on to Montana for the 2021 PNWER Summit. Charlie moderated PNWER’s first-ever Rail Forum; Patrick gave two presentations during the Forum alongside colleagues Dan Bilka, Elaine Clegg, David Strohmaier, Anna Zivarts, and Abe Zumwalt; and AAWA Government Affairs Director Luis Moscoso led a closing discussion with state representative Andrew Barkis of Washington and state senator Chris Gorsek of Oregon. The Rail Forum was scheduled late in the day of the last day of the PNWER meeting, so many attendees had already departed, but the feedback we received was overwhelmingly positive.
After the PNWER Summit, Patrick and Charlie returned to Washington for further Train Trek meetings in Spokane, Cheney, Ritzville, and Ellensburg before wrapping up the trip with AAWA’s annual picnic in South Cle Elum.
In general, the Train Trek meetings were successful in attracting attendees (both via Zoom and in-person) who were actively or formerly involved in AAWA, who were new to the organization and unfamiliar with our work, or who wished to work with AAWA as part of a coalition.
We express our gratitude to AAWA board members Kathy Davis, Gary Wirt, and Warren Yee who attended several of the sessions and helped with setup. Thanks also to John Carlin in Edmonds; Mary O’Dell of the Northern Pacific Railway Museum in Toppenish; Larry Krauter, CEO of the Spokane Airports Authority; Brett Lucas of the City of Cheney; Brian Bothun in Ritzville and Julie Flyckt, Clerk-Treasurer of the City of Ritzville; Mayor Bruce Tabb and Amy McGuffin of the Kittitas County Chamber of Commerce in Ellensburg; and Louis Musso in Cle Elum for their help in arranging the meetings in their communities. Their local coordination was central to the success of these meetings.
Presentations and Videos
Links to the presentations used in each session are available at https://www.aawa.us/impact/2021-train-trek/ as are some videos. Due to technical issues, a few videos are not available.
See the AAWA Press page for details.
Improved Engagement with Local and Regional Coalition Partners
We worked together with partners like the Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority, the Rail Passengers Association, and Disability Rights Washington to spread the word about the opportunities that exist for advancing our cause. Thanks to everyone who responded to our request to participate in the Northwest Rail Forum.
Shared AAWA Work, Mission, & Vision
We succeeded in sharing our work, mission, and vision with local leaders in the communities we visited. We have significantly increased our visibility and contacts in central and eastern Washington, and have made several important connections with officials at the 2021 PNWER Summit. We have already received invitations to continue spreading our message in other locations during the months to come.
Identified New Potential Collaborators/Allies
We have a number of new local, state, regional, and international contacts who are interested in working with us to improve rail service across the Northwest.
Clarified Potential Legislative Priorities
Through discussions with state and local leaders during the Train Trek events, we have clarified how AAWA can advance its mission, vision, and objectives during the 2022 legislative session and beyond.
The Train Trek and PNWER events, together with our other activities over the past two years, have significantly raised AAWA’s visibility with elected leaders, local community leaders, the press and the public. While we would like to have had more participation in some of these events, on the whole, they successfully furthered AAWA’s goals.
Fundraising is Key
AAWA needs to aggressively and significantly expand its fundraising, sponsorship and grant writing efforts to maintain an acceptable level of financial stability and continue its current level of work. AAWA needs the support of sponsors and donors to be able to host and participate in events like the Train Trek and PNWER.
Press Visibility Needs Work
While we were successful in receiving some press coverage, we fared less well in larger communities. Reaching out to members and coalition partners who can represent AAWA to the press in relevant geographic areas, and earlier timelines for event planning, is needed.
Event Coordination and Logistics
The online event registration system generally worked well, but a few people reported not receiving Zoom links. Receiving registration and donation payments in person (using Stripe for the first time) worked very well.
The Meeting Owl device for streaming to Zoom is a bit tricky to set up, and requires good internet connectivity and careful placement in a meeting room to work well.
It was difficult to find venues in some communities. A few were eventually canceled, and others were booked with very short lead-times. More advance planning is needed to ensure the availability of optimal, affordable venues.
Stronger support from local coordinators (who can be AAWA members, volunteers, or coalition members) will be critical in the success of future events.
We were able to put together an itinerary and budget for the Train Trek quickly, but we needed more time to find and contact local coordinators, venues, officials and press. The short lead times, and the uncertainties surrounding the current health situation, had a significant impact on the participation we were able to receive in some locations. For future such events, we will need considerably more planning time.
We were able to recoup approximately 80% of our expenses (not counting Patrick and Charlie’s time). However, such events as the Train Trek should not be undertaken without advance sponsorships and/or corporate donations covering a significant portion of the budgeted costs.
Patrick and Charlie appreciate the help we received in planning and executing the Trek and PNWER events, especially from the members of the Event Planning Committee. In the future, a larger group of volunteers will be helpful, both before and during events.
- Follow-Up with Stakeholders/Attendees
- Establish AAWA’s 2022 Legislative Session Goals
- Develop a Communications/Messaging Strategy
- Develop specific Volunteer Positions
- Collaborate with Ellensburg and Ritzville (where there is interest in further cooperation and joint activities)
How You Can Help
AAWA’s East-West Train Trek and PNWER Northwest Rail Forum were a success!
We’re ready to move forward with
- North-South (Cascades corridor) Train Trek
- Collegiate Train Trek
- PNWER Fall Rail Meeting, Vancouver, BC, Nov. 17-19