Light RailBrooke Southall's "Light Rail, Heavy Burden...


May 11, 1994

Light Rail

Brooke Southall's "Light Rail, Heavy Burden" (Opinion * Commentary, April 29) criticizes projections of increased ridership on the light rail based on the supposition that most commuters ride the light rail twice in one day.

As a light rail and MARC commuter, I have never thought `D seriously about buying a one-way ticket, simply because I had to get home eventually somehow. Ticket revenues are a better indication of the light rail's popularity.

While we're on the subject of ticket revenue, it is instructive to compare the light rail's projected revenue with another Schaeferean infrastructure built with public funds.

I speak of Oriole Park at Camden Yards. This sells 45,000 tickets 81 times a year. The projected light rail ridership will sell 30,000 tickets approximately 250 times a year.

Light rail tickets are a bargain compared to baseball tickets, as befits a public carrier. Yet 30,000 tickets sold 250 times a year is not bad revenue, considering that 45,000 tickets sold 81 times is justifiably touted as an unparalleled civic success.

The Maryland Stadium Authority had the savvy to build an attractive ball park at the juncture of the light rail, MARC trains, the subway's current terminus and Interstate 95. Orioles attendance has exceeded all projections and expectations.

In this context, the Southall numbers on the projected ridership on the Hunt Valley extension of the light rail don't add up. It is my understanding that over 20,000 people are employed in Hunt Valley and that getting to work is generally more important than getting to the ball park. It is unbelievable that this extended service would attract only 600 commuters.

Southall writes from Rodgers Forge, and I suspect that this is the gist of the animus toward rail transportation. There is no rail commuter service anywhere near Rodgers Forge. Maybe there should be.

Baltimore may not be a "big league" city at mass transit, but it once was. It is my understanding that 50 years ago streetcars and rail links (such as the Ruxton Rocket and the Parkton Local) served this town well.

Southall should compare this to a city such as London, which never dismantled its rail lines and now serves 4.5 million commuters a day, more than the Orioles draw all year.

Paul R. Schlitz


South Africa Aid

In response to President Clinton's announcement of a "new expanded aid package" for South Africa:

Will someone explain why one of the world's leading producers of gold and diamonds requires the United States to render financial aid?

If the South African economy is in trouble I think the South African people are capable of repairing it without my already strained American taxpayer's input.

Robert S. Lari


Free Speeches

When traditions are discarded, we often have a quick glimpse of what we are losing and see a gap widened in the community we wish to unite in common interests.

For 100 years, talks by visiting scholars at Johns Hopkins University were open and free to all who were interested in hearing learned men and women in person.

Now they often charge for admission, thus promoting entertainment instead of the individual and his ideas.

Several years ago, it was Barbara Tuchman; now it is David Eisenhower, advertised to speak on May 15, with an admission charge.

Don't we need a more open, inclusive community, where anyone can come to listen? For example, as when Martin Luther King spoke at Hopkins, or Yigael Yadin, Aneurin Bevan, Earl Warren or Isaiah Berlin?

Jane Spencer


Guns and Crime

In response to "Coddling Criminals, NRA-Style" (editorial, May 3), I agree party leaders should pay attention to men like Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, R-Md., and Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill.

They should realize that the voter (that's me) will not condone or support our politicians in office becoming prostitutes for paid lobbyists. Our elected officials need to understand that the stewardship entrusted to them by their constituents must take priority over their need for money.

On the topic of your survey results that "every major law enforcement organization takes an opposing view" from the National Rifle Association, why don't you try asking the questions to the officer on the street and not the appointed chiefs. I will bet the results will be quite different in how to best fight crime.

The Sun, obviously supporting Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, forgot to mention that Del. Ellen Sauerbrey, the "other" GOP candidate for governor of Maryland, offered an amendment to require mandatory sentencing for people using one of the banned firearms.

Well, the gun-hating politicians in Annapolis did not support this amendment. Also, if you had bothered to ask them, as I did, even those who voted for it, they don't think the gun ban will do any good to reduce crime. So why did they vote for it?

On the issue of the faxes, letters and phone calls to Representative Bentley, she should have heeded the source from which they come.

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