Thank you for your mediocre analysis of Tucson's transportation woes ("Crossroads," July 12 and following). As usual with issues of pressing concern, you focused on the elected officials and political bodies who consistently rely on traditional methods of problem-solving, even if they have failed previously, and sometimes repeatedly. Addressing transportation requires "thinking outside the box," and participation from all citizens.
You neglected to solicit input from the Tucson Area Bus Rider's Union, and were remiss in not asking Ben Goff about Pima County's rural bus routes. Neither did you discuss Rideshare or car sharing as existing, or potential, resources for commuters. Also, being unemployed, I would have appreciated knowing about the rumored bullet train to Phoenix.
Your first article saved the most reasoned and intelligent comments for last when mention was made that no transportation problem can be solved without limiting urban sprawl. This connection cannot be emphasized enough. I am an authority only in terms of lifelong ridership on mass transit in Portland, Ore. and Cincinnati, Ohio. Portland's system is superior not because of light rail, but because it has kept up with the city's growth boundary. Cincinnati fails miserably in this regard, and Tucson is well on its way to duplicating that mistake.
It is appalling that, without a car, one cannot even visit most of the major attractions (and potential employers) here, such as the Desert Museum, Old Tucson, Pima Air & Space Museum, Sabino Canyon, and Bioshpere II.
Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the article was the discussion of the proposed sales tax increase as the funding solution. We need to discourage single-occupancy vehicular traffic, and reward those who use alternative transportation. Increase the parking tax. Increase the gas tax. Why not a car wash tax? A wax tax? Be creative, and use those revenue sources for dedicated funding for mass transit. Encourage employers to subsidize bus passes for their employees. Merchants should offer discounts to shoppers who can produce a bus pass. Radio stations should give away bus passes in contests. In short, make it really uncomfortable and inconvenient for solo drivers to make unnecessary trips, and offer incentives to take the bus, carpool, etc. "Passenger" should not be a dirty word!
Meanwhile, Sun Tran needs a bigger advertising presence, showing the many benefits to be derived from riding regularly.
Mostly, we have to recognize that we will have to make sacrifices to achieve the goal of a better Tucson for all citizens, regardless of income level and ethnicity. We need to remember that many (most?) of our citizens come from elsewhere, with different expectations, and can offer ideas that have worked in their home towns. We will have to talk to each other, though. We might have to put down the cell phone, turn off the car radio and just hash it out. Shoot, we might have to just get on the bus, where we won't have the added distraction of driving.
--Eric R. Eaton
To the Editor,
I don't see transportation funding as a problem. The money is ultimately there if earmarked accordingly. The problem is that certain Tucson home and business owners have enough economic clout to kill any transportation project that would force relocation of their homes and businesses. Never mind that such projects could eliminate much of what has come to be dangerous driving conditions in Tucson. The problem is that clout has trumped safety.
But the original problem involved engineering foresight, not ethics. And it began over 200 years ago. When Tucson streets were originally laid out, they were done so with horses and buggies and wagons of military materiel in mind--and with a population of a few hundred as users.
In a nutshell, the streets were too narrow, and still are despite periodic and ineffectual widening. The issue has harassed city officials for two centuries. And the solution is the same today as it has been all along: Significantly widen major surface arteries, especially those that experience traffic backups during rush hours.
Freeways, loops, limited access highways and whatever else might be dreamed up would do little good, if any. At best, these approaches are simply Band-Aids that psychologically mollify drivers. Enter City Council ethics: Decades of contrived bantering over transportation funds have convinced many unwary Tucson drivers that city politicians are really striving to deal with the transportation issue.
But of course they're not. To eliminate what has come to be dangerous driving conditions, the city would have to bulldoze a few thousand homes and businesses to make way for extra traffic lanes. This would be a no-no. The clout of a few thousand home and business owners has trumped the driving safety of several hundred thousand Tucson drivers and passengers.
(You say I don't understand the power of money. You're quite wrong. Experience has taught me that the culture of money typically displaces any moral culture a person has been raised with.)
It's the same old story, one that goes back way more than a couple hundred years: a certain percentage of us everyday workers are expendable, as we attempt to get to work.
I did not read James DiGiovanna's review of A.I. (I was out of town), but trembled when I read his response to Howard Allen's letter in which, among other criticisms, Allen decries DiGiovanna's comparison of Josef Mengele to Stephen Spielberg (Mailbag, July 26). While I agree with Allen that the comparison is so odious as to defy the ability to come up with a word to describe it, the fact that Spielberg is Jewish has absolutely nothing to do with it; Mengele and movie making that DiGiovanna doesn't like don't belong together.
The evils that Mengele committed in his medical experiments also defy description and for DiGiovanna to say that what he did was comparable to Spielberg being "very good at doing something evil" in a movie is way beyond the pale. If the accused director had been Francis Ford Coppola, I would still be trembling.
I think DiGiovanna needs a trip to a concentration camp; Mauthausen comes to mind. There he would see a photo of a badly deformed dwarf whose disabilities so fascinated the medical establishment that he was killed, skinned and the deformities studied. I can't remember the purported medical value of the act, but there are before and after photos for one's enjoyment. I also think it would be useful if DiGiovanna interviewed a survivor of the experiments on twins.
Then, perhaps, just perhaps, he would never again say anything as crass and stupid as "I can see how this would be perceived as insensitive, though I hate to think that anyone is off-limits for criticism." He's right in that nobody is off-limits for criticism, but I wonder if he thought the addition of Mengele would give his piece some extra spice. Why else?
Tom Danehy really hit it on the head in his column about the way the children of divorced parents are shipped around the nation like cattle (Danehy, August 9).
I will never forget an experience I had a few years ago. I was returning to Tucson from a trip to New York and was seated next to a 6-year-old girl. She was crying and sobbing, so I struck up a conversation in an attempt to calm her down. She told me that she was returning from a month-long visit with her "real" father in some Midwestern town and was very sad about leaving him.
After a while the crying stopped and she pulled out some pictures. She showed me a picture of her mother and a man and said what I thought was "This is my forthfather." I was thinking to my self, "What is a forthfather?" Then it struck me she was saying "This is my fourth father." She was 6 years old and was counting fathers in her life.
When the plane landed the girl went up to a smiling woman who was probably her mother. I wonder if she had any idea how much hell she had brought into the short 6-year life of her daughter?
I enjoy Danehy's column very much. Keep on hitting at the injustices in our society that seem to hurt those who are least able to help themselves.