Phoenix's light rail success
To critics who wonder who will ride light rail, I had the privilege of chairing the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce's annual benchmarking trip and saw firsthand the success of the 20-mile system in Phoenix.
Phoenix's light rail averaged 34,809 riders each weekday in 2009, 34 percent above projections. Monthly ridership continues to grow. August alone saw a 16 percent increase, to 1.02 million passengers. Clearly, the demand is there.
Each rider represents one less driver on the road. That means Phoenix has 7,000 fewer cars in traffic every day. Think about what Hillsborough County would be like if we had a similar system.
The Phoenix metro area and Hillsborough County have similar population densities. Hillsborough is definitely denser than other regions like Charlotte and Austin, which both have light rail.
The benefits that light rail could provide to our community are significant, especially the economic growth and jobs as I just witnessed in Phoenix.
Douglas J. Dieck, Tampa
Cities provide a warning on pitfalls of light rail
There are pitfalls to building light rail or a subway, as the experience of Atlanta showed 35 years ago when I lived there. Later, I saw the same flaws in the plans of San Diego and Los Angeles.
Unlike a bus, light rail can't stop every mile. This means that where the stops are located, commercial property values will soar. Meanwhile, properties that are missed by the rail line will fall in value.
In Atlanta this led to frantic lobbying to secure a rail stop next to selected properties and years of lawsuits from the owners of properties "improperly" excluded.
Of course, it was far too logical for Atlanta to tax the property winners in order to award compensation to the property losers, not that a legal framework to do so existed.
Such a framework could be created by organizing special taxing districts around the stops and assessing the properties therein for the cost of the stations, right of way, and rails based on their walking time to the station entrances.
By dedicating these revenues to repaying the system's cost, it might even be possible to build the system without a special transit tax or obligating the general taxpayers.
The current Hillsborough light rail plans, from my experiences, are poorly thought out and cost the taxpayers too much. I suggest voting against them.
Rolf H. Parta, Bradenton
Tea kettle movement is all steam, no engine Sept. 30
Tea party wasn't silent
Thomas Friedman asks, "How can you take a movement seriously that sat largely silent while Bush launched two wars and a new entitlement?"
The answer is they didn't sit silent. The future tea party members voted the Republicans out of Congress in 2006, giving control to the Democrats. Then in 2008, they voted in President Barack Obama and gave the Senate a 60-seat, filibuster-proof majority. This was largely because both Republicans and independents were fed up with the Bush administration's uncontrolled spending and the political infighting.
Obama promised the most transparent government ever, posting all bills on the Internet 72 hours before being brought up for a vote. Instead, he heads one of the most secretive governments I have seen since Richard Nixon, with major bills being written at night by Nancy Pelosi's and Harry Reid's staffers and brought to a vote before even the members of Congress have time to read them.
In his first year in office, Obama racked up a deficit three times higher than the largest one under Bush. This is what spurred the tea party movement: the fact that government was not listening to the people and was spending us into a hole from which we may never recover.
Ken Leiser, Seminole
Dangers of the tea party
After reviewing the weekly news talk shows and reading the papers, I've concluded that the tea party is very dangerous. It is being funded by the rich so they can position their drones to be elected and then controlled from afar. The idea behind this is to keep the status quo for the 10 percent of the wealthiest people in this country and create a shadow government pulling the strings of their puppets that are elected to Congress.
You have to ask yourself why these elected primary winners, representing the tea party, are ducking the national press and refuse to do interviews. Joe Miller, a tea party candidate in Alaska, has stated he wants to get rid of Social Security.
I'm an independent and have little use for the career politicians of either party. All I'm saying is be very careful whom you vote for, or what you wish for might just come true.
Dave Trump, Holiday
Proposed school reforms
Student insights missing
As a recent high school graduate, I found Pinellas County school superintendent Julie Janssen's reform ideas sorely lacking in insight from students. While her ideas may look good on paper, I could immediately point out several flaws.
The first idea that caught my attention was her request to expand the virtual school program. As a past student, I can tell you firsthand that students do not treat virtual school as an actual class. Students tend to blow off assignments till the day they are due and cheating is abundant throughout the virtual classes.
I am also concerned by the idea of using public buses to get students to and from school. I rode a bus from the midcounty area to the Center for Advanced Technologies program at Lakewood High School in St. Petersburg at 5:45 in the morning. I would not want to be on a public bus at that time and would be worried about the safety of students who were.
I also wonder about the need for "ninth-grade centers." The change from middle school to high school is not as dramatic as many people portray it. Why not use the money to hire a counselor to help ninth graders who are having trouble adjusting to high school instead of segregating the ninth graders from the rest of campus?
Michelle Taeuber, Seminole
Every day is Election Day | Sept. 25
Wait for real Election Day
This article reinforced my intent to never participate in the early voting program.
There are too many variables that can occur close to Election Day, not least of which are the debates. We need all the information available to make an enlightened decision, and I urge others to consider the possible negative results of casting a vote before learning all one can about the candidates.
Phyllis Schuster, St. Petersburg