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Letters to the Editor - April 26 2006

All MARTA, all the time, and one Jimmy Carter

IS MARTA SMARTA?

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I bristle when I hear or see the race issue being blamed for all our woes ("Waiting for a ride," April 20). Did you even interview other MARTA riders of other races to obtain information for your story? I think most would have similar comments.

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While the article is a good one to highlight the problems on the MARTA routes, I truly believe that the current problems stem from funding issues and lack of profitability on routes with marginal ridership. I do not doubt that race was a major reason for the past state of MARTA's problems. There comes a time when we need to look beyond the race issue and examine what will actually cure the resulting problem.

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I think your article should have concentrated more on the attitudes of riders, local government divisions and local and state government funding issues and less on the race issue. With proper funding, MARTA could expand its rail to serve more areas of the inner city as well as having better bus service to all areas.

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Until the state and local governments get behind one system to serve the region with support and funding, MARTA will be unable to serve those marginal routes. MARTA has had tough decisions to make in order to continue operations at all. The complete demise of the system would hurt Alexia Howard even more than the present cuts in service.

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-- Harold Kelman, Roswell

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For God's sake, I hope you print this! Your cover story regarding blacks and MARTA was absolutely ridiculous and irresponsible. Forty years after Civil Rights equalled the playing ground for both races and yet blacks and liberal white enablers like yourself are still pointing the finger at "the man" for all the troubles and failures of the black community.

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We have given this failed race chance after chance to take responsibility and succeed at providing better lives and economic conditions for themselves, and yet it is always whitey's fault if Sheniqua has to wait on public transportation to get her to and from her job.

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Come on now, really! Whose fault is that? Maybe the parents of children in the black community should listen to black leaders like Bill Cosby and set better examples for their children so that they may someday succeed and become responsible and self-supporting rather than relying on the system and whitey to bend over for them. Let's face it, you liberals are afraid of the truth. In this case, that truth is that black America is a failure!

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-- John Payne, Atlanta

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Michael Wall's examination of the second-class status of MARTA struck a responsive chord.

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As a retired teacher with a heap of a car, I use the MARTA system frequently. As a transplanted Northerner who grew up in Philadelphia and lived many years in New York City, I know what it means to have an effective, comprehensive public transportation system.

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I also know that after my first few trips on MARTA (both alone and with my grandson), I realized that for all its apparent urbanity and cosmopolitanism, Atlanta, in some disturbing ways, is still the South. Indeed, one of my first observations about riding MARTA was that the racism was palpable (as was the ageism). Of course, a public transportation system does not exist in a vacuum. If MARTA is racist, then, on some level, metropolitan Atlanta is racist. And it is a subtle racism that the preponderance of, say, black political leaders should not be allowed to obscure.

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In fairness, one must say that the MARTA rail system is good as far as it goes. But it does not go far enough. The Beltline plan is good, but it is only a shell.

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Metropolitan Atlanta needs more. And more requires governmental subsidy. The catch-22 that is causing the system to stagnate is puzzling: The system cannot improve without state funding, but the state will not fund the system unless the system improves. The metropolitan area must come together and draw up a sound plan, and the state must find funds to support such a plan.

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If both do their parts, Wall's final sentence can become a clarion call.

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-- Bob Zaslavsky, Atlanta

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While it is certainly amusing from a journalistic standpoint to examine the race and class issues involved in MARTA and Atlanta transportation, it would also be factually valid to point out a couple of nonracial components. One would be the abysmal to nonexistent customer service provided by MARTA. Another might be the filthy, dangerous train stations with no MARTA police in sight. Or one could even ponder the ruinous union contracts.

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Of course, this being Atlanta, one could choose to play the race card on those issues as well.

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By the way, I am a white male suburbanite who rides MARTA 10 times a week.

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-- Mark Whisenant, Marietta

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I want to get rid of my vehicle and use public transport. But to ride decent public transport, I have to go to Eastern Europe. Romania, for one, which is poor compared to the USA. They have excellent train service, and each city, large and small, has excellent public transport, many using trams, trolleybuses and buses. Bucharest has the frequent service that is necessary for people to give up their cars. MARTA has such infrequent service — and routes that change on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays — that you never know when a bus is coming or even if it is coming to the stop at which you are standing. No signs at the stops with the timetables, as in Romania.

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It is time for Atlanta officials to stop making trips to Portland to see how to run a transit system, and go instead to Bucharest or any other Eastern European capital to see how they finance and implement their remarkable people-moving systems.

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-- Thomas A. Dutton, Atlanta

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Piece of work

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Not only pious but even, dare we say it, sanctimonious (Fishwrapper, "Listen up, Democrats," April 6). I guess he forgot to tell the girl in Sunday school about tolerance and civility in politics. But that would be because the Republicans "demonize" their opponents, unlike the saintly Jimmy. What a piece of work.

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-- John Harman, Rochester, N.Y.