Letters to the Editor

Jan 25, 2006 at 12:00 am

Personal best

I enjoyed Curt Guyette's article about Marsden Burger ("Rail break," Metro Times, Jan. 18), whom I know and respect.

I have believed for some time now that personal rapid transit (PRT) is ideally suited for airport applications. Last October BAA contracted to install the ULTra PRT system at Heathrow Airport. The system is expected to improve passenger service over the current shuttle bus system, reduce on-site pollution and increase capacity. In this country Houston Airport has selected PRT as the best system to replace an aging automated people mover system. Studies I have undertaken indicate that PRT systems should be able to move the same number of people in less time and for less cost than automated people movers. As you pointed out, Morgantown has proven the concept. You may be interested to know that it has completed 110,000,000 injury-free passenger miles. Conventional transit would have injured more than one hundred people in that many miles. —Peter J. Muller, President, PRT Consulting, Inc., Englewood, Colo.


PRT a techno-scam

Except for the quote from Professor Vuchic, Mr. Guyette's story was very one-sided. As I once pointed out in an op-ed in the Seattle Post Intelligencer, personal transit is still a techno-dream. PRT proponents are masters at making extravagant claims and promises; however, it's important to recognize that PRT does not currently exist in successful public operation, and, in all likelihood, never will. PRT has a solid 30-year record of controversy and failure. Its main purpose in recent years seems to have been to provide a cover enabling its proponents to spread disinformation about real, workable transit systems.

The unsubstantiated claims of PRT proponents are always presented in the present tense as if the system is a success — which, of course, it certainly is not. Promoters never seem to fail to bash real transit, such as light rail (LRT), as "old-fashioned technology."

Sad to say, the media rarely check the veracity of PRT publicity and propaganda.

Basically, PRT is a stalking horse for the highway construction industry. PRT proponents can say things that the highway boosters could never say, such as "People don't like to ride with strangers." This anti-transit propaganda divides and conquers the opposition to highway projects. PRT bamboozles and confuses citizens and lawmakers about the real, workable, off-the-shelf transit solutions that can help communities free themselves from gridlock, pollution and dependence on foreign oil.

Don't fall for the scam. —Ken Avidor, Minneapolis, Minn.


Demagogues for transit?

Re: Your News Hit item "Taking transit steps" (Metro Times, Jan. 11), what amazes me most is that it's made to sound as if changing the Michigan Constitution to allow for voter-based tax to fund the new transit system would be difficult. Common sense would dictate that it should be a cakewalk. All they need do is recruit the same jerks who rallied so hard to insert the Michigan "Marriage Amendment" into the Michigan Constitution to do all the leg work and lobbying — snap, it's done.

But more to the point, the rapid system should go at least to Troy rather than Royal Oak. That is ridiculous seeing how you can catch about six different buses to get there now. A large majority of people, particularly the 16- to 25-year-old set, work out in Troy at various malls and restaurants. If they are going to realize a rapid-rail system for metro Detroit, they need to serve the people who need it most and not just a bunch of greedy localized businesses. I love Royal Oak, but Troy has way more businesses that employ way more Detroiters. Let's not invest in another, faster People Mover. —Neil Moore, Detroit


A teacher talks

Re: Jack Lessenberry's recent column, "The Most Important Job" (Metro Times, Jan. 18), let me preface my comments with the admission that I am a high school teacher in a public school district.

I agree with many of Mr. Lessenberry's statements about the importance of an education. Unfortunately, Mr. Lessenberry misses the mark on standards.

It is true that the state of Michigan has very low graduation requirements. That is because until recently, the state has left such decisions in the hands of local school boards. Each local school board determines what is a reasonable number of credits, and what courses should be taken.

I think that these proposed standards are well-intentioned, but somewhat misguided. The lieutenant governor seems to think that all of our students are college-bound. That is a wonderful idea, but it falls far short of reality. Many of our students are better served with work-study, technical training and vocational education. With the proposed requirements, students would be unable to get sufficient access to these "real world" courses and still graduate from high school. The State Board of Education does not leave students enough room to take business classes, computer classes, auto shop or drafting. Many of our students, who plan on entering the work force immediately after high school, need this access.

Mr. Lessenberry did make one very accurate statement regarding these proposed requirements: Graduation rates will fall. We already have students who struggle to pass our school's required four years of English, three years of math, three years of social studies, two years of science, and one year each of health, computers and government/civics. These are not outrageous standards, nor are they exceptional in Michigan. They do, however, provide students with the foundation of an education that everyone needs to survive.

Forcing students of all ability levels into the same course of study will only drive the non-college-bound students out of high school altogether. —Brian Hacker, Clarkston


Education isn't everything

Jack Lessenberry's column hit on a long-standing pet peeve of mine: The much-regurgitated "everybody needs an education" bromide.

Hitler's Nazis were educated. So are the political snakes on the take from Jack Abramoff, as are all the CEOs who are slashing pay and benefits as they line their own pockets. Kwame Kilpatrick could crap law degrees after breakfast every morning and what would it mean? The man is a clown, so please don't hold him up as an example for apathetic inner-city high schoolers.

I don't mean to discount higher education as a means of improving one's financial lot, but the ongoing disappearance of the middle class is a worldwide, and rigged, income distribution problem as opposed to an education problem. The notion that we're going to turn factory rats, janitors and grocery clerks — all worthwhile jobs, by the way — into doctors, lawyers and computer geeks is pure folly. —Todd Steven Kindred, Garden City


False security 101

It was very disturbing to read Chris Winkler's opinion letter "Wiretapping is OK" (Letters to the editor, Metro Times Jan. 4). To surrender one's freedom for a false sense of security is a dangerous thing. How will wiretapping phones prevent terrorism? Hasn't Chris heard of prepaid cellular phones, which, as far as I know, are untraceable? It is a slippery slope we are on — one headed toward fascism, when the people of a nation are willing to give up individual rights and freedoms in the naive belief that it will "allow us to have a happy holiday."

I, for one, cherish my freedom: freedom from unnecessary governmental intervention. —Carl Fanning, Ann Arbor


No greasy kids' stuff

Fantastic article on the childfree ("Oh, baby," Metro Times, Dec. 28, 2005). I always use that term. I'm glad you interviewed women in their 20s, too, who are in the midst of what society likes to think of as the "child-bearing years." I'm 38, and I'm not changing my mind, either. Great job! —Tracy Balazy, Taylor


Not that C-word!

What a great article on the C-word-free. (No, I can't even write that word.) Sorry, I just hear it too often!

CF restaurants and movies would be nice. CF living areas would be nicer! I can choose not to go to places I know minors will be, I can walk out of a restaurant should a minor walk in. Those things are easier to work than finding a place to live where your living room doesn't sound like you ever decided you didn't want to have minors. I remember living in apartments and having it sound regularly like I had 17 minors in my place. I got so fed up I bought a house and it's somewhat better (nothing is running across my ceiling) but I still am bothered by neighbors' minors, especially in this day when minors express every emotion they have by screaming.

Being a homeowner, I do so love how I get to pay property taxes, the majority of which goes to public schools. I wonder if Gary Glenn — when he remarked about the CF happily collecting Social Security from the working class of the future — considered where funding for these future workers' educations came from? It's not the parents, with all their tax deductions and credits!

Glenn also must not think present CFs pay into Social Security, and for me it's almost as much as I end up paying in federal taxes. I don't buy that if I make it to retirement that I'll be collecting someone else's money. I feel such situations only apply to parents. They are the only ones receiving benefits via someone else's work.

It's been a year and a half approximately since a stranger laughed at me and told me I'd change my mind. I'm 35 and I leave no room for possibility but yet a good deal of people probably won't believe I'm serious until I'm dead and they can't mark my headstone with the phrase "Loving Mother."—Aimee Foley, Toledo, Ohio


Detects selfishness

I read with interest your article about childless couples. The fact that they are now forming a lobby to protect their rights feels somewhat disturbing to me, a gay, single and childless man. I have never heard of a childless couple being fired for being who they are, or, for that matter, being denied housing for that same reason. This whole thing has a very strong whiff of selfishness about it.

It would seem that one of their "rights" would be to be able to exclude other people from their perfect world. I can just imagine it now. A straight (or gay) couple earning 50k apiece not wanting to pay for schools, not wanting to pay for homeless shelters (and certainly not in their back yard), and not wanting to make any kind of contribution at all that they do not benefit directly from, and in short order. Are these the same people who want to grow up late? And retire early?

I believe that having and nurturing children is a privilege, not a duty. It is a difficult job. Especially if one wishes to do it right. And I do not fault anyone from taking a pass on that responsibility. But I do believe we must be realistic. The children of today will pay the taxes (and Social Security) of tomorrow. And the adults of today are tomorrow's dependents. It is my belief that, ultimately, none of us can be any happier, safer or more secure than the society we live in. People who nurture children to adulthood properly, in my opinion, do the lion's share of the work in making such a society possible. —Bob Cornwell, Warren


Did we read the same piece?

I thought Sarah Klein's article, "Oh, Baby," about the childfree movement was going to be something different, but it was so simplistic it really pissed me off. What is the point of demonizing those who choose not to procreate? That's not Metro Times' job, but the job of the mainstream media — and they do not need help. Many childfree people ("childless by choice" is the term I like to use) are not child-haters at all and have made their decision to remain childfree through much consideration and soul-searching, which is far more than can be said of many people who have children. Klein's interview included only stereotypical childfree people who simply don't like children, but there are many of us who have made a difficult decision based on many factors. To paraphrase the writer Stephanie Mills, it's an act of humanity not to bear children. —Julie Herrada, Ann Arbor


One from the folks

For eight years of marriage, my husband and I eschewed children. We had no plans for any, weren't setting up for any, etc. One day, we woke up and looked at each other and said, "Let's get pregnant!" Claiming that the desire to have children is inborn (à la sexual orientation) is a little bit too much. The biological clock is eventually going to start ticking; whether it's heard over the din of busy lives is another story.

The childfree "movement" is interesting in that it's now considered a movement. Ten years ago, my spouse and I were just people who didn't have any kids. Now we're the parents of two very well-disciplined kids. And yes, they behave at restaurants. Otherwise, we probably wouldn't take them. —Katherine Helmetag, Troy


Bring back the music

Detroit has lost a great cultural institution with the recent changes to the weekday programming schedule at WDET. Instead of locally produced weekday music programming, along with live performances, we are now fed highbrow talk and informational programming, most of which is already available via Michigan Radio out of Ann Arbor or Flint. Cool cities need cool music. I urge everyone to join the members of Save Detroit Radio in our efforts to restore some local weekday music programming to our public radio station in Detroit, WDET. —Carl Ballou, West Bloomfield


Erratum: In last week's Idiot Boxing column "Random acts of kindness" (Metro Times, Jan 18) we gave an incorrect time for the show Random 1. It airs at 11 p.m., Fridays on A&E.

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