Letters to the Editor 

What's the MATA?

As a longtime business owner on Madison Avenue and an opponent of the light-rail nightmare that MATA inflicted on the residents and business owners on the street, I read your cover story ("MATA's Moment of Truth," June 26th issue) with much interest but not much hope.

With all due respect to Mr. Hudson, Mr. Fox, and Mr. Aviotti, the version of light rail that MATA has been pushing all these years is at best a make-work project and at worst a complete boondoggle.

Not only did the Madison extension ruin numerous businesses along the street where the rail line was extended, it also changed the traffic counts and travel patterns of downtown workers. This affects Madison Avenue to this day. Traffic counts have not returned to pre-light-rail construction counts, and it is not likely they ever will.

The logic of a point-to-point rail system as planned in Memphis escapes me. The three lines as proposed will do nothing to reduce pollution or decrease traffic congestion. Think of a train that has to stop at every stop light and deal with weather problems, stalled cars, and traffic accidents. The entire line would shut down. This is not a mass-transportation alternative. It is a tourist attraction at $30 million a mile — $1.2 billion for all three lines to be built to completion.

If we really want mass transit in Memphis, we need a comprehensive rail plan, including rail/light-rail/monorail around the city, mirroring the interstate highway system. We need a feeder route to the northeast (Cordova, Arlington, Bartlett), a route to the southeast, including Collierville, one to the south, including Whitehaven, and one to the north, including Frayser. Use the interstate system as the right-of-way, since it is already owned. No messy land purchases. And we could use the abandoned CSX track right-of-way that runs from Midtown to Cordova.

Why can we not be the city that has the best mass-transportation system in America? At $30 million a mile, 40 miles of monorail could be built around this city. Will it? Probably not. There is too much vested interest in the status quo. But what if it could?

Mark Weber

Memphis

I was interested to read the article regarding our public transport system, MATA. As usual, the writing was crisp and deep.

In this day of skyrocketing costs driven by oil, it is troubling to think that a transport system that already teeters on the edge may be pushed over said edge. I am an avid advocate of public transportation but agree that the current system doesn't work here in Memphis. I am troubled, knowing that the lack of ridership and increasing costs could leave MATA a shadow of its former self. So what can be done?

One solution may be to get off the "grid." While looking for something else, I ran into an ad on eBay for liquid natural gas buses being sold in California. Seventeen of them at a price even MATA could afford. They are efficient, clean, and cheap to run when compared to the diesels we have now. At 26 feet in length, they're also more in line with the size needed here. Something to think about.

Steve Levine

Memphis

Drill for More

Oil is a proven commodity. It produces fuel, heat, synthetic products, and consumer goods. It works, and it has been working for decades.

The problem now is that certain individuals and groups want to restrict finding oil and bringing it to the surface. The Middle East has been a major source of oil but also a major headache. Disengagement from this area is a wise policy. We don't need their oil; we have our own.

A new report says there are billions of barrels of oil in areas in and around North Dakota. We know that there are significant reserves of oil in the Alaskan wilderness areas. Environmentalists have successfully blocked any attempt to recover that oil. When extremist propaganda is allowed to rule the day, the whole country suffers. The neocons aren't the only idiots around. Sometimes it is the liberals and their tree-hugging pals.

If the movers and shakers want to develop alternative fuel sources, then they need to do more than they are doing now.

John McCain has it half-right but still wants the Alaskan source to be off limits. Obama seems to want only alternative fuel sources but no domestic production. Unless he changes his mind, I will be changing my vote.

Joe M. Spitzer

Memphis

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