Host a Transportation Site Visit
Members of Congress and their staff spend a great deal of time in the districts they represent. Visits to transportation sites are the single best way to help federal legislators and their staff understand the connections between the policy they make and the impact on transportation projects in their district. Hosting a site visit to a transportation project in your city doesn't have to be an arduous undertaking. Here are five easy steps to putting together a successful event:
- E-mail NLC at firstname.lastname@example.org to let NLC know you are willing to conduct a city visit.
- Develop a plan. What would you like to show the member(s) of Congress and your local media? Who should attend? What issues would you like to highlight during the event?
- Issue the invitation. Provide the details of your proposed visit in a short letter of invitation which you can fax or e-mail to the member's district office. Follow-up with a phone call and get the planning process underway.
- Conduct the visit. Once everything's arranged, conducting the visit is almost the easiest part. You'll need to remain somewhat flexible, however, in case of unforeseen scheduling conflicts or other problems. You can use this sample itinerary to help plan the day.
- Follow-Up. Let NLC know how the visit went and whether the Member of Congress and/or staff person raised any questions that need a response. We can also assist with additional follow-up ideas to help build a lasting relationship with the office.
Your participation in this effort could make all the difference in our campaign for a federal transportation program that helps strengthen cities.
Checklist for Setting up a Site Visit
- Step One: Pre-Planning
- Contact NLC's staff to let them know of your willingness to conduct a visit, and get assistance.
- Step Two: Planning the Visit
- Who will you invite to the visit? Consider these options:
- Member of Congress
- Member's DC staff
- District staff
- Member of Congress first and then staff person if the Member is unavailable
- Local members of the media
- What will you show them? How does what you're showing them relate to the federal highway bill? Although they are residents of your community, they often may not be fully aware of the projects underway. This is particularly true for new DC staff who may not be from the district. These visits give them a perfect opportunity to stay informed.
- Who else will you have at the event? Members of Congress and their staff like to meet "real people" - i.e., employees, residents, and the like.
- Invite the media (but only in coordination with the Member of Congress's office).
- Put the plan in writing.
- Schedule a meeting / phone call with internal personnel who will be involved with the visit to ensure the plan - and any related advocacy messages - are clear.
- Who will you invite to the visit? Consider these options:
- Step Three: Invitation
- Identify Members of Congress who represent your city (this may include more than one person in the House of Representatives).
- Develop an invitation letter for your Member of Congress or a staff person.
- Through House.gov or Senate.gov, find the district office phone number for your Members of Congress. For those with multiple offices, choose the closest one to where you plan to hold the city visit.
- Call the office to ensure that your invitation is directed correctly:
- For invitations for MEMBERS ONLY: Call the office and ask for the district scheduler. Tell him/her you would like to send an invitation and ask the best way to send it (some offices prefer fax, others e-mail)
- For invitations for DISTRICT STAFF: Call the district office and ask for the staff person who handles your issue. Speak with them directly and follow-up with an e-mailed invitation, if necessary.
- For invitations for DC STAFF (who often visit the Congressional district or state during the district work periods): Call the DC office and ask for the staff person who handles your issue. Speak with them directly and follow-up with an e- mailed invitation, if necessary.
- Follow-up on all invitations sent with additional phone calls / e-mails until the visit is scheduled.
- Step Four: Conduct the Visit
- Coordinate with your staff the day before the visit.
- Prepare a one page document telling your city's transportation story. Be sure to include basic facts about transportation projects, such as budget, number of people served, jobs created, benefit to the city, and other information you may have available.
- Review your own talking points or those provided by NLC to prepare you to discuss important city issues with your Members of Congress.
- Review the plan to ensure all timeframes are reasonable and to develop contingency plans (if necessary).
- Have back-up plans in case of bad weather, transportation breakdowns or other snafus.
- Assign one of your staff the task of taking pictures during the visit as well as to take notes about the issues in which the Member of Congress or staff person expressed the most interest.
- Step Five: Follow-Up
- Send a "Thank You" letter to the Member of Congress's office.
- Send pictures from the visit to the Member of Congress's office (or better yet, post through social media).
- Follow-up on any questions raised with additional information.
- Follow-up on any potential media inquiries (after working with the Member of Congress's office).
- Consider asking the Member of Congress to submit a statement for the Congressional Record about the visit.
- Report back to NLC about how the visit went.
- Schedule follow-up with the member and their staff.
The Honorable [FULL NAME OF MEMBER OF CONGRESS]
Washington, DC [ZIP]
Dear Representative/Senator [NAME]:
As a local leader in your district, I write today to invite you to visit [TRANSPORTATION PROJECT], which is located in [CITY]. Specifically, our city hopes that you might be available [DATE] for a brief tour of the project and a meeting with city officials. By way of background, this project serves [INFORMATION ON CONSTITUENTS SERVED].
We are eager to show you our work on this transportation project. In particularly, we would like to show you how this project, and others like it, benefit the residents of our community. [PROVIDE DETAILS ABOUT BENEFITS AND ROLE OF TRANSPORTATION PROJECT]
Upcoming debates in Congress over the federal highway bill will have a dramatic impact on our city and our residents' ability to access jobs and services. We would welcome the opportunity to discuss these impacts further, and provide needed background and resources to your office on the value of transportation in our community. Thank you in advance for your consideration. To set up a visit, or if you have any questions, please contact [CONTACT INFORMATION].
[NAME AND CITY TITLE]
Transportation Project Tour Plan
1.5 hour visit
- 10:00 a.m. - 10:15 a.m. - Greet Member of Congress and/or staff at office location. Provide briefing.
- 10:15 a.m. - 11:15 a.m. - Tour of one city transportation project that highlights value of transportation in the city.
- 11:15 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. - Wrap-up/final questions and comments from Member of Congress