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To supplement Adler's enlightening, if saddening, column, it would be helpful to know how our own present public transportation system compares with major ones in Europe, such as in the UK, France, and Germany. Are we behind them, as we are in healthcare? In any case, since a new stimulus package is needed, an obvious conclusion is that it should include substantial support for existing public transportation systems, as well as improvements thereof.

Frank R. Tangherlini

San Diego, CA

Jul 25 2009 - 3:12pm

Web Letter

The stimulus is/was intended to spur development and growth in the economy. I fail to see how supplementing existing systems helps to do anything but maintain the status quo. The opportunity to invest such a large amount into transit comes along so rarely that it would be such a waste to simply pour money into the lagging budgets of local transportation authorities. If we did this, the best-case scenario would be that we would be in the exact same place in a couple of years. On the other side, if we use the stimulus for new construction, we'll at least have the potential for larger systems in the future.

We have to remember that construction is not the same thing as operation and maintenance--these are different problems that require different types of funding. Also, I'm not sure it would be wise for the federal government to get involved any more than it already is in the funding of day-to-day operations of public transit authorities, for the same reasons that the federal government probably regrets playing such a large role in the operation of the highway system. The federal government is the only entity in the US that can spur development on such a large scale, but it should be up to the states to actually operate these systems. Let's not make the national government bigger, but instead let it do what it does best--spur development on initiatives that would be difficult at the state and local level, and then let those local governments figure out how to operate them. If those local governments can't figure it out...well, there's the problem.

Ryan Carlyle

New York, NY

Jul 24 2009 - 8:31am

Web Letter

Perhaps it's better to abandon the old fixed-route and extremely capital-intensive systems for taxibus systems, which combine new technologies innovatively: cell phones, computerized routing, hybrid vans. The savings are enormous, the convenience incredible (door to door, automatic billing, security) and many more less technically skilled driving jobs. They take about fifteen vans per square mile for peak hours, and are easily conformable to loads. No more watching giant buses clog up traffic and trundling around empty late at night due to fear of assault. All passengers will be known, due to online billing. Another good reason for universal cell phone service. Read up on this exciting new technology blend solving transit problems neatly.

Ormond Otvos

Richmond, CA

Jul 23 2009 - 10:53pm

Web Letter

Bravo, Mr. Adler. We are witnessing the extension of the misplacing of all or most of our transit priorities. We parade the mag-lev dream train down Main Street while the bridges fall down, the metro trains crash and the bus on the side street stops from a lack of maintenance. Then we raise fares and lay off transit employees.

Our next step will be to actually remove the seats from the bus because they are too expensive to clean.

But of course that way the poor and unemployed will have more places to stand around.

Ivan Hentschel

Cedar Creek, TX

Jul 22 2009 - 12:44pm