Amtrak has done little to deserve public subsidies...


March 18, 2002

Amtrak has done little to deserve public subsidies

Douglas Turner's incoherent rantings on inter-city rail are the stuff of supermarket tabloids ("Big money fuels scheme to derail Amtrak for good," Opinion * Commentary, March 5). The fact is that Amtrak has been an abject failure.

Fares-per-mile are higher than the costs of either airlines or inter-city buses. That means that if Amtrak's costs were competitive, subsidies would not be needed. It also means that the American taxpayer is subsidizing only Amtrak's excessive costs, since riders are already paying more than the market rate.

Further, Amtrak-style "high-speed" rail -- at an average of 65 miles per hour, as on Acela between New York and Boston (not 160 miles per hour, as on trains in Japan and France) -- simply cannot compete with airlines.

And yes, a growing nation -- and we are growing -- needs expanded highway capacity. Even if we were to increase urban densities five times, the auto would still be dominant, as it is in Europe outside the historic core cities beyond which American tourists rarely venture.

Wendell Cox


The writer is a member of the Amtrak Reform Council.

Adding downtown parking hinders fight for mass transit

I do not understand The Sun's positions on city transportation issues. One month it berates the Maryland Transportation Administration for not providing a better transit system. The next month it berates Baltimore for not providing enough parking ("City's parking problem," editorial, March 2).

Do the editors not realize that increasing parking -- especially for long-term users such as employees -- makes a superior transit system less possible?

In many cities, commuters and downtown visitors choose transit to avoid congestion and expensive parking. A primary reason why the Baltimore region lacks a great transit system is that influential "choice" riders have little incentive to take transit because of city policies that make it easy to drive downtown.

While increasing parking may seem like a good short-term solution for Baltimore, the long-term impact will harm Baltimore City and hinder the region's ability to create an outstanding transit system.

Holiday Collins


The city's homeless need our help

I have no doubt that the mayor does not like to see homeless people outside, freezing and hungry. But more needs to be done to help the many men, women and even children who have no place to live and nothing to eat ("City's record on homeless criticized," March 5).

It is ironic to me that we have thousands of vacant buildings in Baltimore City wasting away and, at the same time, we have many homeless people in desperate need of shelter.

It hurts to see human beings lying in the street starving -- hurts not because it is embarrassing to the city, but because these are people and they are dying and something needs to be done.

Homelessness is real. A few homeless people might be running a scam, but many are really suffering and need help.

Murphy Edward Smith


A military mindset isn't right for police

The shooting of Joseph C. Schultz by the FBI is indicative of an intolerable level of militarization in law enforcement.

The FBI agent who shot Mr. Schultz was a decorated rifle platoon commander and became a member of the local elite SWAT team. The point apparently needs to be reiterated that the police are not, and should not be, a military force.

The citizens of the United States are not combatants in a war. Those with military training are trained to kill the enemies of the United States. The police are trained to, among other things, honor our constitutional protections.

The police should be wary when taking applications from those with prior combat experience. Their expertise is in killing the enemies of our country, not honoring constitutional protections.

Thane Bellomo


What Egypt really needs is population control

The Sun's article "Egypt sees bias in U.S., not unrest at home" (March 3) informed readers about the situation and attitudes and woes of that country. The writer alluded to its greatest problem of all by mentioning that 600,000 or more young people join the available work force each year, but never quite used the words: too much population growth.

If ever a country needed a population policy, with family planning and available birth control services, it is Egypt. Without such a plan, its poverty and unemployment will only get worse.

I do not know about the religious objections to such a policy in a Muslim country, but they need to make a compromise.

Carleton W. Brown


Schools can be an oasis for struggling communities

I am troubled by the letter "Parents pushed schools to take on their duties" (March 6).

The writer states, "Our schools would love to return to those days of yesteryear, when teaching was their only job." Which "yesteryear" is he referring to? While I was growing up in New York City in the 1950s and 1960s, the local schools were the oasis of the community -- day and night, year round.

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