Taken for a Ride
Regarding Alan Prendergast's "Beating the Train," in the July 24 issue:
As a Colorado native who moved to New York City in 1979 and who has both driven in areas without decent mass transit and enjoyed effective mass-transit systems, I disagree with those who are anti-rail systems. I rode the Denver buses briefly; I gave it up when I was left waiting in the dark in a lonely area, hoping that my connecting bus hadn't arrived early, leaving me for an hour in a dangerous location. I'm not stupid--I drove to work after a week or so. In New York City, although the subways had a crime problem, I found that they went everywhere, ran often, day and night, and were convenient and reasonably priced. They connected with a comprehensive bus system, which also ran frequently and almost everywhere. If you build a comprehensive system, link it with a comprehensive bus system that runs often to the places people want to go and price it reasonably, ridership will soar. If you do a half-assed system, with trains running every couple of hours to here and there, few people will use it.

Either spend the money you need to do the job right and leave a legacy for generations of Coloradans to enjoy and maintain, or don't do it at all. Letting the initial price tag frighten you into an incomplete system is throwing away the money that you do invest. Personally, I would like very much to see a comprehensive system in place, because it gives bad drivers an alternative and gives good drivers free time to do things other than dodge bad drivers. It will probably clean up the air, but you have to assume that more people will be moving to Denver in the generations to come. And I will be moving back in the next year or so and will be happy to pay my share for a comprehensive system that would be a tribute to the foresightedness of present planners and residents.

Sharon Campbell
via the Internet

I wish to thank Alan Prendergast for giving Westword readers a glimpse at the dark, backward-looking vision of light rail's opponents. Prendergast mentioned how lead opponent Jon Caldara, an RTD boardmember, wanted to play the RTD board's split to his advantage. We have to remember the origin of the split. There is a crafty minority taking ideological guidance from the far-right-wing libertarian Independence Institute. Their real goal, since the election back in November 1994, has been to tear down the RTD in the public's mind. They simply don't believe in the RTD's mission of utilizing public monies to offer transportation alternatives to metro Denver.

To the extent that RTD boardmember Caldara and his allies can divide the RTD board or get press for embarrassing statements that put the RTD in an embarrassing light, they have succeeded. So if Caldara is internally inconsistent, what the hey! It still makes the RTD board look bad. Thus, Caldara charged that only three of the seven corridors have had major investment studies (MIS) for light rail. He, of course, was against all of them. But despite his opposition to light rail and the studies that often preceded any light-rail proposals, I watched him fight tenaciously for an RTD board commitment to an MIS for Boulder's U.S. 36 corridor, his own RTD district. Speaking with forked tongue? Maybe, but really it was just another battle in a long, strange war he's waging.

Thank you, Mr. Prendergast, for warning us of the Caldara cabal's campaign based on a "need to play on fear." What transportation solutions do they offer to the problem we all suffer when we drive to work? Well, it seems to be "just say no." Have they offered anything other than getting back in your car and joining the gridlock?

If we ever hope to make a dent in worsening transportation problems in our area, we have to offer incentives and alternatives to the single-occupant vehicles clogging our roads. In lieu of any more serious thinking about the problem, when Caldara offers his "just say no" approach, his anti cabal seems to be offering the metro area a vision that resolutely looks backward. How can we move thoughtfully into the 21st century by only looking backward?

David Ruchman

I went from Denver to L.A. in '87, so I'm used to traffic. But I spent two weeks in Denver earlier this month and was amazed at all the goofy people driving around, one person to a vehicle. Denver needs some form of workable public transportation. I plan to return to Denver soon, and I'd rather not pay for a Humvee to crawl over the carcasses of all those SUVs and econoboxes.

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