Railing about rail
Larry Kaufmann's opinion column ("What's Wrong with High-Speed Rail," 9/24/10) misses the point about the extension to Madison of one of Amtrak's most successful routes, between Milwaukee and Chicago. The new link would connect the intellectual capital and tens of thousands of students of Madison to the business capital (and home for many Wisconsin students) of the Chicago area.
It's really a Madison-Chicago rail link, as the Milwaukee-Chicago trains are already packed (standing room only during rush hour) and will directly connect to Madison. The lack of train service to downtown Madison retards tourism and business development, as well as forces more parking lots to accommodate the cars that would-be train riders are forced to use instead.
Finally, as oil prices continue their inevitable rise, the fuel efficiency of trains (as well as rail's eventual electrification) will serve our regional economy well.
Dan Johnson-Weinberger, Chicago, Ill.
Larry Kaufmann's analysis of high-speed rail has holes big enough to drive a train through. He compares the total cost of rail construction and operation (including his own seat-of-the-pants cost analysis extrapolated from the $810 billion officially estimated construction cost) with the out-of-pocket cost of about $15 of driving to and from Milwaukee.
Now I'm no "economic consultant," but the last time I drove for business the IRS estimated the cost of driving at 58 cents/mile, which comes a lot closer to $100 than $15 for that trip. That's not counting the subsidies to build, repair, salt, plow and provide state patrol services to the interstate highway.
I am really getting tired of the disingenuous arguments put forth by anti-rail spokesmen. Larry Kaufmann's Isthmus column is a case in point. While sounding logical and moderate in tone, it misrepresents the costs of driving and commercial over-the-road transportation versus rail.
To suggest that what the driver pays for that trip to Milwaukee is all it costs is ludicrous. It costs huge amounts of money to build and maintain highways. They don't arrive out of thin air.
Only half of most highway costs are covered by user fees. The rest is all dreaded subsidy. Why is a subsidy for rail not okay, while subsidies for roads and airports are?
High-speed rail costs, both capital and operating, are nothing compared to the cost of highways.
I recently picked up an issue of Isthmus with the front cover displaying a photo of a young woman being groped by a man while dancing ("The Twilight Zone," 9/17/10). The article was decent, and I understand why you would include the two people dancing, but I am extremely confused as to why you would put a photo of someone nearly shoving his hand up some woman's butt through her pants.
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that she did not give consent to have that photo published. As a photographer, I don't see how the photo is relevant to the article, unless of course you were subliminally trying to make Plan B out to be a shady club. If we are examining it for artistic value, I also see none. I guess I'm flat-out offended by the tasteless photo choice.
Dee Maravela, Sun Prairie