Advocate explains that corridor collaboration is the key to regional rail
In this episode of Train Time, we spoke to Meredith Richards, president of the Virginia Rail Policy Institute and a member of the Board of Directors of the Rail Passengers Association. She explains how she helped build a statewide coalition to connect, and reconnect, Virginia by passenger rail. She tells an instructive story about the way Amtrak ticket allocation left Virginia business passengers without train service even though trains stopped in their towns en route to Washington DC. Her account includes details that are relevant to those in other regions, including the Northeast. She explains how important it is to build a coalition, to change the way transportation funding is allocated, and to ensure that short-distance, regional service is given due attention.
Meredith Richards is a former Charlottesville City Councilor and Vice Mayor and today is president of the Virginia Rail Policy Institute and a member of the Board of Directors of the Rail Passengers Association. In 2005, Meredith established a Charlottesville-based non-profit to advocate for enhanced passenger rail for the Virginia Crescent Corridor and subsequently organized a consortium of twenty-two political jurisdictions along the US29 corridor into the Piedmont Rail Coalition. Their collective, multi-year effort succeeded in bringing the Lynchburg-DC Northeast Regional, the first new passenger rail service for the corridor in over a half-century and Virginia’s first state-sponsored intercity passenger train, to the corridor. She led a successful effort to significantly increase transit’s formula share of the state transportation fund and while serving on Governor Mark Warner’s Commission on Rail Enhancement for the 21st Century, she helped establish Virginia’s first dedicated fund for rail capital projects. More recently (2021), as a co-chair of Virginians for High-Speed Rail, she helped build public support for establishing the Commonwealth Rail Fund as a permanent division of the state transportation fund and for the newly established Virginia Passenger Rail Authority. In 2020, Virginians for High-Speed Rail created an annual Legislative Achievement Award in Meredith’s name.