Free fares get folks on the bus


June 07, 2008

I fully agree with the editorial "A quality shuttle first" (June 2) when it says that the proposed Downtown Shuttle Bus needs to be "attractive, reliable and yes, even fun." But I was confused by The Sun's assertion that making this shuttle free somehow undermines these goals.

Several other major cities offer free transit in their downtown areas, including Denver and Portland, Ore. Their positive experience points the way for Baltimore. And from what we've seen, the benefits of free rides outweigh those of charging a fee.

Indeed, it is extremely expensive to purchase, install and maintain fare equipment. There are also huge administrative overhead costs involved in collecting and accounting for the money.

It takes time for people to pay as they board or to try to find change they may not even have. And even charging $1 or $2 a ride would not begin to cover the cost of operating the system.

A fare-box system would increase costs and administrative burdens, inconvenience riders and offer little benefit to the shuttle's bottom line.

Fares are also a disincentive for people to ride, which would create yet another obstacle to people riding transit.

And there's little proof to support The Sun's opinion that "customers will recognize that they're getting something of value" if the shuttle were to "charge a token amount (50 cents, perhaps)."

No one would seriously argue that the Walters Art Museum and the Baltimore Museum of Art offer a lower-quality experience because they are now free. And The Sun's new b publication is no less a publication because it's free.

Our governments charge next to nothing for people to drive cars on highways and roads, even though it is very expensive to construct and maintain the highways.

But good roads - free of charge and covered by general taxes - are what we expect from our elected leaders.

It's time for transit to be treated the same way.

J. Kirby Fowler Jr., Baltimore

The writer is president of the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore Inc.

Israeli wall is barrier to peace

I recently returned from a 17-day trip to Palestine and Israel with 15 American Presbyterians. We were aghast at what we saw and heard from the people we interviewed there.

The Israeli leadership is building a wall and checkpoints in Palestinian areas to defend its illegal settlements in the West Bank.

The wall is humiliating to Palestinians and causes massive unemployment. Like our war in Iraq, it is ill-conceived, ill-executed and counterproductive.

This wall is made possible by our aid to Israel. It is universally opposed by Palestinians and is also opposed by many Israelis.

For more than 20 years, the Israeli leadership has continuously pledged to the United States that it will not expand its illegal settlements. It has just as continuously ignored those promises.

Now the Israeli leadership feels it needs the wall and checkpoints to support the settlements.

The U.S. is being played for a fool by the Israeli leadership.

It is not anti-Israeli to oppose this wall, any more than it is anti-American to criticize the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison.

By building the wall, the Israeli leadership is trading false security for the soul of its nation.

And the United States is complicit in this effort.

Donald C. Erickson, Annapolis

Donor's waffling teaches lessons

Howard Castleman has unwittingly taught the Patterson High School students some lessons in how to conduct yourself in business and in life to generate ill will and bad publicity ("Firm reneges on scholarships," June 3).

First, when faced with unforeseen change, refuse to work together to find a solution. Second, do not keep your promises. Third, blame the other guy for your actions.

Thankfully, the Patterson High School faculty and staff are demonstrating more-desirable traits in community leaders: maturity and insight.

Working together to right this sad situation, they are raising the scholarship money for the students themselves.

The Patterson High School community also deserves to be commended for keeping its priorities in order by recognizing the passing of Air Force Maj. Gerald Thomas.

Some PR flack once said that any publicity is good publicity. Mr. Castleman is surely learning otherwise.

Sue Keller, Finksburg

Helping girls get meaning of math

It wasn't until my senior year in high school that I began to like math. And I truly believe that this was because my math teacher was a woman, which is why I found the article "Gender gap clues" (May 30) so intriguing.

For years, I languished in the back of my math classes afraid to raise my hand for fear of appearing stupid or not "getting it" as my male classmates appeared so easily to do.

My male math teachers had been serious, gruff sorts who didn't have time or patience to answer my numerous questions because, like many people who excelled in English, reading and languages, I needed to understand why 2 + 2 = 4, not just accept it as gospel.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.