Gas guzzlers - the consumer's choice?
Regarding "Driving Miss Detroit" (March 11, Editorial): I wish to refute your support of fuel-efficiency laws. By raising mileage- standard regulations, corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) laws force people to buy lighter vehicles, and actually endanger car buyers if they were to be involved in an accident. CAFE laws have yet to save fuel. When they were first proposed, the promise was the same, to become independent of foreign oil. The result is that we are more dependent than ever on foreign oil.
This mileage-regulation increase would greatly affect the US car industry and the livelihoods of thousands of people. Manufacturers make the vehicles people want to buy. We should blame the consumer, if anyone.
Regarding "An Iraq war could bring gas-pump gloom" (March 4): As an environmentally conscious citizen, I am infuriated by the government's decision to continue spending exorbitant amounts of money to ensure access to foreign sources of oil. Such efforts suggest to Americans that it's acceptable to be heavily reliant on oil and, therefore, acceptable to drive gas-guzzling SUVs.
The US consumes millions of gallons of oil per day. In the face of an energy crisis, our government should be encouraging energy conservation and exploring alternative energy sources, rather than assuring Americans that oil will be protected by troops. It's about time our government allocated considerable resources to the development and promotion of alternative energy. Such efforts would encourage Americans to step out of their SUVs and utilize less-wasteful forms of transportation.
Bring Amtrak into the 21st century
Regarding "Amtrak reform picks up steam - again" (March 11): I read your article on upcoming reforms and congressional discussions concerning Amtrak with interest. The lack of success Amtrak has had is easy to understand. When planning a road trip between Boston's South Station and New York's Penn Station, any map finder on the Internet will tell you the distance is around 212 miles. The travel-time estimate is about four hours. The Amtrak site lists the schedule for Boston to New York on the new Acela express train, with a travel time of three hours and 45 minutes. And this is "the nation's fastest train"? No wonder there is no heavy demand and consequent financial success.
The trains in Europe and Japan are very profitable high-speed rail services that have been operating for years. A 212-mile trip, like one between Boston and New York, in France takes a little over an hour, and is cheaper than Amtrak, too. This true high-speed rail service easily beats, in time and value, using an airline service when distances are under 500 miles. Amtrak and the federal government must understand that a profitable rail service is possible only when we decide to use 21st-century trains running on 21st-century tracks.
Although I enjoyed your article on Amtrak reform, you repeat one of the great passenger rail myths - that the future of rail travel lies in the short-haul corridors. This is just not the case. The aggregate ridership of the few long-distance trains that serve Chicago exceeds the ridership of all of its short-corridor trains, and the output of those long-distance trains, measured by revenue passenger miles, exceeds the output of the Chicago-hub corridor trains. It would seem that the future of Amtrak trains would be in the long-distance travel arena.
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