Dear T.A.: I
thoroughly enjoyed speaking at the Car-Free Central Park Rally June 3- The
crowd's enthusiasm convinced me that our objectives are the right ones. We
plan to work with you to promote electric transportation, in all its forms,
and to make the streets of New York safe, clean and quiet for everyone.
Editor: There are several good reasons why an increasing number of people prefer monorails. In a nutshell: they are safe, economic, and people pleasing.
Raised above street level on graceful, stylistic beams, monorails do not collide with pedestrians or automobiles. Derailments are unusual; the Wuppertal monorail, almost a century old, has yet to record a single fatality.
During construction, streets are not torn up, nor neighborhoods disrupted for months while the system is installed. Monorails are the least expensive transit system to build, operate and maintain. The experience of Wuppertal after the W.W.II bombing of German cities is instructive: it was the first transportation system to be fully operational after the war.
For the New York region,
monorails are the least expensive, most environmentally sound traffic calming
solution for a city suffocating in and paralyzed by eternal gridlock.
Editor: There I was, enjoying Peter Freund and George Martin's new opus, The Ecology of the Automobile," when the May/June Auto-Free Press arrived with a review chiding ' the book for lacking focus and for dulling the reader's senses with arcane statistics.
The review was too harsh. Granted, "Ecology" isn't a masterpiece in the Jan Jacobs mold, or even that of Wolfgang Sachs. But it is a good, worthwhile read. Its wide scope is helping me to see auto culture more clearly, ranging from the rise of exercise machines (which replicate physical exercise but not the experience of natural activity), to gender differences over fast driving (men report a lifetime top speed of 106 mph to women's 82 mph - a priceless statistic!), to the way in which "auto space" constrains rather than expands personal freedom.
I give "The Ecology of the Automobile" a big thumbs-up.
Editor: In a recent interview with the Environmental Justice Alliance (AFP Nov-Dec 1993), Lu Blain commented that the "stick" of higher gas taxes might be effective, but that without alternatives, "you're just making poor folks pay more."
Although I am sensitive to the costs of owning a car (and thus have never owned one), I think Lu's reasoning is misguided. As TA's C. Komanoff has shown, a "tax" on gas might more properly be termed a "cost" Thus a gas tax is not a regressive tax, but the actual cost of a wasteful and luxurious mode of transportation. While it is clearly a socio-economic injustice that cars are almost a requirement in this society, the solution is to fight that "requirement," not to continue welfare for car owners, especially when those who cannot afford the luxury of a car at all are among those funding the subsidy.
Ron Goodman, Santa Cruz, CA