Letters to the Editor
Public Transit Breakdown
Regarding Erin Sherbert's article titled "Fueling the Fire" ("Prius Schmius," Cover Story, Dec. 12): This article deserves a follow-up in Metro because it has missed several important points that the public should be made aware of. First, mass transit in Silicon Valley is actually inefficient because of our living arrangements. UC-Berkeley, for example, has a long history of publishing studies on the choices people make for transportation, and they are generally not favorable to the suburban landscape we have built in the South Bay. For example, one 2002 study noted: "The analysis reveals intensities and mixtures of land use significantly influence decisions to drive-alone, share a ride, or patronize transit, while the influences of urban design tend to be more modest." In short, if you can't quickly walk to where you can hitch a ride, you are much less likely to take public transit. This is a problem for valley residents for two reasons: first, because of our "single-family detached-home" suburban landscape, most people live at least a mile from a grocery store, let alone a light-rail station. Secondly, even if a light-rail line came through your neighborhood, the population density is so low that the number of riders could not justify the cost of construction.
A second concern is how slow our light-rail system is. The convenience of a transportation system can be measured in how quickly it can serve the routes needed by its riders. The VTA has a nice utility on its website for calculating when you should board a train or bus to get to your destination on time. For myself, as an example, I commute from west Sunnyvale to south San Jose. I live about a mile from the nearest light-rail station in Mountain View. Not counting the trip to the station, our most wondrous light rail would get me to the neighborhood of the Oakridge Mall in just two hours! My drive by freeway, in comparison, is just 30 minutes. I consider my time valuable, so what advantage is there to me for sitting on a train four hours a day? Sorry, not going to happen under these conditions.
Third, this whole subject of our automobile-centric culture leads us to links with climate change and limited resources. There is lot of hot air escaping people's mouths about how we should reduce greenhouse gasses, but no one wants to take personal responsibility for it. I still see an awful lot of people commuting and shopping in their 15 mpg pickups, SUVs and muscle vars. The fix for this problem is only scratched by hybrid cars. It will take 20 years or more for the overall automobile fleet on the road to double in efficiency, and that will be meaningless if in the mean time we double the number of cars on the road. Clearly, the only way the world will reduce its emissions by 80 percent is by using 80 percent less energy, in total. What reduction is in store for the individual if world population continues to grow? OK, now we are really starting to get into touchy territory! Birth control is actually against some people's religion.
The inescapable conclusion is one a lot of people are not going to like: suburban sprawl will have to come to an end. A complete rethinking of what our living arrangements look like is called for, and the sooner the better. But it will be bitter medicine.
Alternatives Are For Alternatives
I'm writing to urge you to cover political candidates from alternative (a.k.a. "third") parties.
I think that this should be routinely done out of fairness and respect for the efforts these folks are making. Many people agree that our present "winner-take-all" two-party system is not serving the needs of the American people. Some citizens have taken the trouble to form alternative parties. These folks recognize that the two mainstream parties are dominated by corporate interests.
I believe that our country thrives on diversity and inclusiveness. We need to know about the entire spectrum of political ideas that are out there, and not huddle fearfully behind candidates who are "the lesser of two evils" just because we are brainwashed by the media barrage.
Yeah, and what's wrong with voting for what you actually want? And knowing who's taking money from the military-industrial-congressional complex?
I thank you for your past coverage of alternative candidates, and I hope I will read about my candidate in your paper.
Dana St. George
Send letters to the editor here.