Limos Would Be CheaperIf state politicians are serious in...


October 03, 1992

Limos Would Be Cheaper

If state politicians are serious in looking for ways to cut expenditures, they will cancel the proposed MARC rail service between Frederick and Point of Rocks.

Some $50 million in capital expenditure is apparently required for this project, and the service is bound to run at a continuing annual loss of many millions, which will have to be found by taxpayers, too.

It is such a dog-legged route to Washington, D.C., via Point of Rocks, and such train service is typically so unreliable, it seems most unlikely to attract many motorists from I-270.

I recently called both county and state officials, who say none has any numbers on the likely ridership.

There has been no professional study, and there are no estimates of the likely patronage. One official told me that the best indication of likely ridership is the existing Meet-the-MARC van service, which he said is used by 50 to 60 people a day.

Let's be optimistic. Let's say the rail service triples the usage of the present van service. Say 150 people a day take the train from Frederick. The expenditure of $45 million on station construction, track update and rolling stock acquisition would therefore amount to a capital grant of $300,000 per commuter.

If annual losses on the service are $3 million -- a not unreasonable guess given the history of similar schemes -- the thing will cost taxpayers $20,000 per commuter per year to sustain.

It would therefore be a great saving to taxpayers to provide each precious commuter with a free stretched limousine and a uniformed chauffeur for dignified door-to-door transportation.

An additional benefit of this limo alternative would be the avoidance of terrible wrecks at the 11 unprotected at-grade crossings between Frederick and Point of Rocks.

Peter Samuel


Church Wants Members to Be Good Citizens

While it is widely acknowledged that major public issues have moral dimensions and that religious values have public consequences, there often is confusion regarding the participation of religious groups in public life.

Such confusion is manifested in a Sept. 8 letter written by J. Edward Johnston, who identifies himself as a Roman Catholic and says he wants his church "to get its moralistic agenda out of [his] political views."

The Catholic Church joins the public debate to share its experiences in serving the poor, the powerless and the defenseless, and to add its values to the political dialogue.

It seeks a community of conscience within the larger society whose members measure public issues against these central values. Its objectives are fairly characterized as "moralistic," but they are neither partisan nor ideological; rather, by focusing on the fundamental dignity of the human person, they cut across political categories.

This kind of participation does not involve religious tests for candidates, or telling people for whom they should vote. Rather, it seeks to lift up the moral dimensions of public issues. It encourages all people of good will to use their voices and their votes to enrich the social and political life of their communities. It encourages Catholics, as believers and as citizens, to use the resources of their faith in helping build a society that is more respectful of life and human dignity.

Catholics believe that the commandment to love one's neighbor extends to the entire community, inviting individual acts of charity to be sure, but also encouraging understanding and action on a broader scale, one that necessarily involves the institutions and structures of society, the economy and politics.

Involvement in this broader, pastoral realm means involvement in the affirmation of human rights and in the denunciation of human rights violations.

It encourages Catholics to call attention to the moral and religious dimensions of secular issues, to keep alive the values of the Gospel as norms for social and political life, and to advocate for peace and justice. Such a ministry inevitably touches upon public affairs and involves political consequences.

Unfortunately, the church's efforts in this area are sometimes misunderstood, even as in the case of Mr. Johnston, among the Catholic faithful.

The church's participation in public affairs is not a threat to the political process or to pluralism, but an affirmation of their importance. The church recognizes the legitimate autonomy of government and the right of all, including the church, to be heard in the formulation of public policy and the debate of public policy issues.

It is noteworthy that the discomfort caused Mr. Johnston by the church's "moralistic agenda" admits no challenge to either the nearly 2,000-year-old basis of the agenda, or the right of the church in the United States, guaranteed more than 200 years ago, to pursue it. This, at least, is a positive aspect of his letter.

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