To attract riders, Metro subway must be better...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

January 02, 2000

To attract riders, Metro subway must be better maintained

Kudos to The Sun for emphasizing Baltimore's need for a sensible rail transportation plan (editorials, Dec. 12-14). Marylanders can only hope that Gov. Parris N. Glendening's attention has been directed to this important issue.

However, The Sun should also focus attention on the fate of the Baltimore Metro system.

In recent years, its escalators and elevators have often been out of service. Its cars are regularly filthy and occasionally marked with graffiti, and riders show disrespect by eating, drinking and even urinating in the subway stations and cars.

Any plan to widen Metro's coverage in the Baltimore region must be accompanied by a commitment not to allow our stations and system to fall into disrepair.

No matter where the subway travels, if it remains dirty and abused, it will look unsafe and crime-ridden.

If the Metro is to capture more commuter workers, and reduce roadway congestion, the Mass Transit Administration must address these concerns. Otherwise, potential riders will only vote against the Metro, by continuing to drive their cars. About five years ago, the MTA its fares, making $1.35 the uniform charge. This fare has never increased.

I call upon the MTA to change its fee structure to reflect shorter traveling destinations, and make the unpopular decision to increase fares across the board.

Added revenues should be directed to repairing and renovating stations, increasing security and creating a job corps of high school students to perform such basic tasks as cleaning stations and cars.

Before taxpayers allow some of the state's $1 billion surplus to be plunked down on another Metro project, let's see more commitment to the current system.

Howard Hoffman

Baltimore

To prevent gridlock, state must invest in better roads

The Sun's recent coverage of transportation issues ("Slow and getting slower," Dec. 22 and the editorial series on mass transit, Dec. 12-14) have called attention to the state's transportation problems.

Recently, the state's commission on Transportation Investment found that unless Maryland invests an additional $27 billion dollars in its road, rail and bus systems, continued population growth may bring our roads to a standstill.

To meet the state's needs, it found, at least $700 million per year must be spent improving our highway system alone.

Maryland's gas tax can no longer underwrite two major public transit systems -- one in Baltimore, one in Washington -- and a highway construction and maintenance program that meets our needs.

In fiscal year 2000, operating losses from these transit systems will exceed $400 million.

These deficits compete with road improvements for funds and also hamper port and airport capital projects.

The Commission says a new long-term source of funds must be found by 2003. We say, three years is too long to wait.

Better public transit will play a role in solving mobility issues, albeit a small one. But road improvements are crucial.

Neither will occur without prompt action on funding.

Robert E. Latham

Glen Burnie

The writer is executive director of Marylanders for Efficient and Safe Highways, a highway advocacy group.

The ultimate penalty: sensitivity training

Surely Atlanta Braves pitcher John Rocker must receive the ultimate penalty for his intolerable, intolerant remarks, that is, to be sentenced to "sensitivity training" (" `Contrite' Rocker says he's sorry about remarks," Dec. 23).

Of course, if Mr. Rocker happens to find a great lawyer, and catch a judge in a compassionate mood, then he may get a lesser sentence, such as being locked in a room for three hours with an insurance salesman, or easier still, the death penalty.

Instead of exercising their freedom of speech, athletes should stick to more minor transgressions, such as doing drugs. For that, they only get brief suspensions.

Dave Reich

Perry Hall

Portrayal of courage, hope was a gift for all seasons

May I express my appreciation to The Sun and to writer Kirsten Scharnberg and photographer Algerina Perna for their wonderful gift to the paper's readers, the moving essay "Conversations with History: Story Hour" (Dec. 19).

The article was sensitive and well-crafted and the photographs added to the richness of our understanding.

An essay that shows the courage of individuals, the nurturing of hope, and the recognition of our common humanity is a gift appropriate at any time of the year.

Ronald E. Mattson

Baltimore

Good riddance to the 1990s and to a corrupt presidency

After years of multiculturalism, "group rights," frivolous lawsuits and the quest for "societal justice," I shout a heartfelt goodbye to the 1990s.

With the exception of the strong economy, the new year marked the end of the most absurd decade in American history.

Following closely behind the decade's end will be the departure of the worst husband and wife team ever to occupy the Oval Office. Good riddance to them, too.

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