September/October 1998, p.23

Letters: Carrots vs. Sticks, Bus vs. Rail

Dear T.A.:
"Safer Cab Drivers - Yes!" in your July/August issue was right on target. Higher standards will only work with higher pay for drivers. This requires higher fares. You understand the balance between the carrot and the stick. The mayor knows only the stick. Thanks for your input.
Yellow Cab Driver
New York, NY

Dear Kenneth M. Slaw, Dir., Dept. of Member, State and Chapter Affairs
American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP):
It is embarrassing to witness how the AAP prostitutes itself to car culture by forming an alliance with a car insurer. Cars are responsible for over 250 deaths annually of pedestrians and cyclists in New York City alone, many of them children, and in addition they are responsible for innumerable injuries, many with lasting consequences. They pollute our environment and take away vast amounts of public space (parking, streets) that could be used for playgrounds, parks and other things that benefit children. Anything that makes owning a car more convenient or cheaper increases the number of cars and is therefore detrimental to society. You say the AAP is committed to "the attainment of optimal physical, mental and social health of children." Really? Does making car ownership cheaper accomplish these things? I am truly disappointed in you. Please work towards the worthy goal of helping children rather than supporting a car culture that promotes obesity, encourages social alienation and results in thousands of horrifying deaths and inuries to children annually.
Patrick Schnell, MD
Chief Resident, Pediatrics
Long Island College Hospital
Ed. note: Slaw wrote Schnell on behalf of the AAP touting the "direct access" of AAP members to a major auto insurer.

Dear T.A.:
Hi, I'm a new-ish member (joined this spring). I saw in the last T.A. mag letters section that T.A. advocates a $750 million light rail line for Second Avenue.
I would like to know what the rationale is for light rail vs. low- or zero-emission buses. $750 million would go a long, long way toward buying or retrofitting buses, putting in a bus-only lane, etc., not to mention improving service so that fewer people would drive or take cabs. I just don't see how a light-rail system can compete on cost when so much money will go into laying tracks - when we already have roads.
Will you explain our position on this? Have we analyzed costs and benefits? I have heard of several real-world examples where improving an existing public bus service was found to be a much more effective solution, in terms of cost, service, and environmental results, than creating a new and different service from scratch. I could find them if anyone is curious.
Matt Morgan
New York, NY
Ed. Note: Light rail or trolleys beat the pants off buses - diesel, electric or otherwise. Trolleys board faster than buses, carry more people and add riders over existing bus routes wherever they are installed. On the East Side of Manhattan, for example, some 30 trolleys could do the work of the 76 buses now on the M15 route. Also, it's easier to preempt traffic lights for trolleys than buses. Lastly, over the life of a system, light rail is far cheaper than the bus. Buses must be fixed and replaced more frequently because they suffer more wear and tear than a train. Convinced? There is a wealth of data on this topic, all of which shows trolleys a better investment than buses when looked at over 20 years or more.

Dear Fellow City Residents:
So how were your tax dollars spent this Friday night? Some of them went to the five or six policemen from the 84th precinct who were ticketing bikers who did not stop at one arbitrary point, dismount, and walk to another arbitrary point, in order to exit the bridge and cross Adams St.
On my way home to Brooklyn, I commonly see two, three, even four cars run the red light at Adams St. Nearly every night I wonder why I don't EVER see the NYPD ticket those motorists who think the speed limit on Adams St. is 55 mph and the red light is optional.
Instead, we have a platoon of cops, maybe on overtime, spending our tax dollars to hand out "failure to dismount" tickets at 11 on a Friday night - at an intersection one of the officers was proud to pronounce the most dangerous in the city.
I'm tired of the double standard. I'm tired of harrassment and bullying from cops and cars alike. Earlier the same evening I was bumped from behind and nearly knocked into traffic by a car. The driver failed to acknowledge me or his error. When a cyclist hits and injures someone (which happpens a couple hundred times a year, maybe one person dies) it's because the cyclist was reckless. When a car hits and injures someone (happens about 14,000 times a year and 250+ die) it's always an "accident" that couldn't be helped.
The Mayor will not, try as he may, get me or my quiet, non-polluting, non-city-destroying form of transportation off the street. I have a right to ride these streets, which I helped pay for. If everyone had his own personal steel box, and no one was on the sidewalk or street walking, cycling, and skating, the city would stink. And I for one would not want to live here.
S.E. Soons
Brooklyn, NY
Ed. Note: Police have been sporadically ticketing cyclists on the Brooklyn Bridge for failing to dismount where required by posted signs. The DOT has the power to post signage to regulate bridge traffic; the Brooklyn, Williamsburg and Queensboro all have "Dismount" signs, which make no sense and are rarely if ever complied with by cyclists (many are posted so high no one notices them). While some of the signs are there to deflect potential legal claims for cyclists crashing on bridge expansion joints, most of the signs' intent is to get cyclists to slow down. And "slow" or "danger" is what they should say.