VA RAILWAY EXPRESS
ENABLED BY TOM:
ABOVE: Branding logo created by Tom for successful VRE extension campaign and headline from the Sunday Washington Post article reporting the next day’s opening of the new VRE station in Spotsylvania.
Virginia Railway Express
Tom Byrnes led and managed the successful campaign to expand and extend the Virginia Railway Express (VRE) commuter rail service from Washington, DC further south to Spotsylvania County, VA — an accomplishment celebrated in DC and throughout the Commonwealth.
The southernmost point of VRE was originally designed and planned to be located in Spotsylvania. Political opposition to membership, however, prevailed for nearly 20 years – failing each and every time membership came to a vote.
Tom partnered with two pro-VRE supervisors and commuter rail interest groups to orchestrate and manage an all-encompassing campaign to educate the public and media, increase community support and secure the additional votes needed to make VRE membership a reality.
The multi-faceted campaign and public relations effort involved identifying the largest success obstacle (political opposition to an associated two-percent gas tax), conducting the research needed to confront and overcome this obstacle and then utilizing that research to change public opinion enough to earn the support of the additional county supervisors needed to approve membership.
The associated public relations campaign utilized statistical gas price data to prove Spotsylvania residents were, on average, already paying the same price per gallon as the neighboring VRE member jurisdictions within the same metropolitan area. This critical fact proved residents (voters) were effectively paying the associated VRE gas tax regardless of membership, and without public benefit. The subsequent marketing of this information helped secure the additional support needed among county supervisors to successfully expand commuter rail service in Virginia.
Spotsylvania County is one of the most conservative and anti-tax localities in Virginia (and in the entire United States). Even so, Tom’s creative marketing campaign included a bold “pro-tax” message that resonated even within this demographic, and it worked. VRE now runs daily from Spotsylvania to Washington, DC – and it has spurred tremendous economic development.
Most impressively, through 2017, Spotsylvania profited over $27 million dollars from VRE membership, which is now regarded and widely recognized as the greatest accomplishment in the last 100 years of the county’s storied history.
*Note: Dan Telvock, the then Free Lance-Star newspaper reporter and subsequent friend of Tom quoted above, is an award-winning journalist now working for the Investigative Post in Western New York. Dan and Tom wagered a cup of coffee when Dan told Tom the county board of supervisors would never vote to join VRE. Tom is still waiting for that coffee, Dan.
© 2018 THOS. M. BYRNES