October 8, 2010

Saturday's Letters: Avoid mass transit pitfalls

By Times Wire

My father, who is retired and living in Florida, pointed out the Times article about our train system here in Charlotte, N.C.

While I love taking it to work, the train does have major issues that I hope your area takes into consideration before going ahead with the project, if in fact it passes.

First and foremost is the expense. The original cost of the Lynx train in 2002 was about $225 million; it ended up costing about $462 million in 2005. What's $200 million between friends? Make sure builders get their numbers right.

Also, many folks do not pay their fares. We may get our tickets checked once, maybe twice a month. We see others riding for free. If a conductor does happen to be on that train, the rider who does not have a ticket hops off at the next stop and waits for the next train. So I would strongly urge a few more conductors checking passes.

I also think a person who gets on, say, 5 miles from the city should pay a little more than the person who gets on a half-mile from downtown.

Don't get me wrong: I love taking the train. It's a great way to get in and out of the city, as long as you are close to the stops.

Make sure you do it right, Tampa.

Brian A. Wichern, Charlotte, N.C.

Powerful economic boost

I agree with Times staff writer Bill Varian in his piece entitled, "Cheap, easy travel without a car, day or night."

With two children and two grandchildren living in Charlotte, I visit quite frequently and utilize the light rail and bus service when I am there.

Transit-oriented development has proven a powerful economic force by increasing property values, creating a larger tax base and fueling demand for retail. Studies show that each dollar spent on public transportation projects yields on average $6 in local economic activity.

Other benefits of light rail include, but are not limited to, decreased emissions, increased mobility for the elderly and disabled, and reduced traffic congestion.

I encourage anyone to visit Charlotte to see the benefits of light rail and how an integrated transportation system boosts a community's economy. This could be the Tampa Bay area's ticket to ride among America's big cities.

Bill Heller, state representative, District 52, St. Petersburg

Limited benefits

I will be voting no on the light rail proposal as it only appears to help people who live on the I-275 corridor and downtown Tampa.

Has everybody forgotten about those of us who live in older and established neighborhoods such as Northdale and Carrollwood? We have been struggling with the heavy traffic on Dale Mabry much longer than those folks who live in New Tampa have been dealing with Bruce B. Downs Boulevard.

Where is the relief for us? How is it fair to address the traffic woes of a much newer neighborhood over the problems of older neighborhoods?

Debbie Shifferd, Tampa

Upgrade power, data lines

My grandparents on both sides were Tampa residents before 1910. Members of the family have lived in the area ever since. And for all that time there has been talk about improving traffic flows.

Many unique efforts were involved. How many remember that the first scheduled airline flew between St. Petersburg and Tampa? Ferry boats plied the bay as commuter craft. My parents went to the opening party of the Davis Causeway. It was privately built, and the family lived above it in the toll plaza.

Now it's rail. The transportation funding is needed and should be supported in November. But these roads and light rail lines should also be designed to be the backbone of a network of buried power and data cable conduits.

Every one of us has lost power, sometimes for days, because poles fell or wires were damaged.

Public safety officials say the loss of power and communications during and after hurricanes and tornadoes is a threat. Underground power lines isn't the final word, but it is a great start.

Such a move would also beautify the horizon and power Florida's economic engine.

Linus Upson, Hernando

No longer king, queen of their castle | Oct. 3

A family works to adapt

I can only imagine the torrent of letters from readers who don't have it in them to feel for this family. "Oh, they had to sell their RV? Boo-hoo. They had to sell their boat? Pity." In these times, I can understand the sentiments of those readers. However, I think there is a more important side to this story, and that is this family's willingness to adapt in order to keep as much of what they have earned as possible.

While living in the palatial confines of this mansion is the dream of many Americans, how many of us would be willing to open that mansion to strangers in order to offset the cost of ownership? How many of us would be willing to rent out our private spaces in order to protect those very spaces from foreclosure? I'm not sure I could do it.

I wish the Canhams the best and hope their plan works.

Barrett Hardy, Spring Hill

Little sympathy here

How sorry are we to feel for these "poor" people? Six people living in 7,000 square feet. My entire lot isn't that big. Fourteen thousand dollars for front doors. My car didn't cost that much brand new. All the furniture in my house cost less than their dining table.

In my opinion these folks are the poster family for two of the biggest flaws in American society today: greed and living beyond your means.

My wife and I bought a home 15 years ago, have never been late on a payment and the home is 75 percent paid for. We have one vehicle payment, one credit card (no balance), and our monthly expenses. For most of this year my wife has been undergoing chemotherapy and radiation for cancer and I have been out of work on disability since early July. Again we have missed no payments and have even been able to save some money.

We are not looking for a pat on the back, but we and others like us are the solution. The Canhams and their ilk are a large part of the problem.

David L. Moon, Holiday

Hindenburg Omen

Gloom, doom unfounded

On Aug. 20 the Times published an article on the Hindenburg Omen and how it predicted a dramatic downturn in the stock market. The Times deemed this article worthy of the front page.

It is now more than six weeks later and this pessimistic piece of journalism has turned out to be one of the most inaccurate "gloom and doom" articles ever written. The market has seen gains since then, up more than 5 percent since the article appeared.

I am waiting for a follow-up front-page article telling us how inaccurate the previous story was, but in this era where negative journalism sells, I am not holding my breath.

Joe Lese, Homosassa


A classical fan's suggestion

I always listened to classical music on WUSF-FM whether I was at home or driving in the Tampa Bay area. There is no other station in the area worthy of my time. But this has changed with the recent format changes at the station; things have gone downhill rapidly.

Management has made some very poor decisions, in particular, the purchase of WSMR. With the station's transmitter located 17 miles south of Nokomis, it is simply too far south of the bay area for reliable reception. Where I live in north Pinellas County, reception is almost impossible, whereas WUSF 89.7 comes in loud and clear. Installing a "translator" in Pasco County will do little good as translators utilize very low power and are designed to cover only a few square blocks, such as a downtown area.

HD radio on WUSF-HD2 is no good for classical music as the bit rate of 92 kbps used in digital radio is simply too low for the transmission of good-quality music; it is not even CD quality (128 kbps).

The only reasonable and practical solution is to put classical music back on WUSF 89.7 where it belongs and move all the NPR talk shows to WUSF-HD2. Ninety-two kbps is perfectly adequate for voice. With that, the station could cancel the purchase of WSMR.

Most listeners go to WUSF-FM for classical music, not for the endless NPR talk shows. This plan will make WUSF's listeners happy again.

John K. Pringle, retired FM broadcast engineer, Tarpon Springs

Online comments

Stop hurtful comments

I have been a loyal reader for many years, and the Internet enhances my enjoyment of the Times. However, lately I have noticed an increase in the number of insensitive, hateful, hurtful comments that appear after tragic stories.

Usually these comments are by the same people; I recognize the user names. I realize these people have nothing better to do than go online and hide behind a user name and stir the pot. I am respectfully requesting that comments be disabled for certain stories, or at least monitored more often.

Lisa Bendel, Hudson

Too much cruelty

After reading about the cruel comments posted on the Web on the death of a St. Petersburg man killed in a hit and run, I must ask: What's with the people down here?

I have lived in St. Petersburg for eight years and it still never ceases to amaze me how cruel the people are in this area. I lived most of my life just outside Philadelphia and am no stranger to a "rough and tumble" area, but this isn't the first time I have read really mean comments on your news stories. Another one that comes to mind was the suicide on the Sunshine Skyway, when people were jeering for the person to jump so they could get home.

The comments on the Web were so bizarre on the hit-and-run story I thought maybe I was living in some sort of parallel universe. I've never read such hideous comments.

Your news stories are wonderful, sensitive, timely and thorough and I'm grateful to have at least one decent paper here. But I can't help wondering who these creepy individuals are and where they come from.

I think one of your readers had the right idea: Take down the comment areas altogether. If people want to comment on a story, they can write to the editor.

Carolyn Beardsley, St. Petersburg

Afghanistan war inquiry

Wars make us less safe

Regardless of the results of the Army's investigation of the apparent murder of unarmed Afghanistan civilians by U.S. troops, it is far past time for Americans to connect the dots in the futile overseas adventures that seem likely to stretch into the next decade.

Only myopic jingoists would believe such actions as those allegedly perpetrated by Calvin R. Gibbs are isolated incidents. Remember Abu Ghraib?

I think our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan actually weakens the homeland against possible future terrorist attacks.

Michael Henry, Bradenton

For safety or the cash? | Oct. 1

Bumper or T-bone crash?

I have been following the pros and cons of red-light cameras. I sometimes think that some of the opponents are red-light violators.

In response to University of South Florida researchers' claims of more rear-end collisions, I would rather have my bumper crumpled than be T-boned in an intersection by someone speeding through a red light.

Elvin H. Gibson, St. Pete Beach

Enforce the law

On red-light cameras, it's not just about safety, nor is money the principal reason.

It's really about enforcing the law - an undoubtedly necessary and sound law. A red traffic light means stop.

Besides, what's wrong with raising money from deliberate lawbreakers? Most red light running is patently deliberate.

It is not a "tax" either, because there is a choice. Don't run a red light. And save a life.

David Derrick, Pinellas Park

Name change

The name of the St. Petersburg Times should be changed to Tampa Bay Sports Daily to better reflect the contents of the newspaper. On Wednesday I became certain that the name change was needed when the first two headlines that I noted on the front page were about the Tampa Bay Rays.

Then, when I read in the sideline "In the know" that Russian-born physicists had won a Nobel Prize - see World, 2A - there was no Page 2A. The next page was 4A. I think the Times has a serious problem.

Carl Bertolino, Palm Harbor


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