THB, Banditos, Wayward and more confirmed for Cosmic Cocktail!

Free fares get folks on the bus

The Baltimore Sun

I fully agree with the editorial "A quality shuttle first" (June 2) when it says that the proposed Downtown Shuttle Bus needs to be "attractive, reliable and yes, even fun." But I was confused by The Sun's assertion that making this shuttle free somehow undermines these goals.

Several other major cities offer free transit in their downtown areas, including Denver and Portland, Ore. Their positive experience points the way for Baltimore. And from what we've seen, the benefits of free rides outweigh those of charging a fee.

Indeed, it is extremely expensive to purchase, install and maintain fare equipment. There are also huge administrative overhead costs involved in collecting and accounting for the money.

It takes time for people to pay as they board or to try to find change they may not even have. And even charging $1 or $2 a ride would not begin to cover the cost of operating the system.

A fare-box system would increase costs and administrative burdens, inconvenience riders and offer little benefit to the shuttle's bottom line.

Fares are also a disincentive for people to ride, which would create yet another obstacle to people riding transit.

And there's little proof to support The Sun's opinion that "customers will recognize that they're getting something of value" if the shuttle were to "charge a token amount (50 cents, perhaps)."

No one would seriously argue that the Walters Art Museum and the Baltimore Museum of Art offer a lower-quality experience because they are now free. And The Sun's new b publication is no less a publication because it's free.

Our governments charge next to nothing for people to drive cars on highways and roads, even though it is very expensive to construct and maintain the highways.

But good roads - free of charge and covered by general taxes - are what we expect from our elected leaders.

It's time for transit to be treated the same way.

J. Kirby Fowler Jr., Baltimore

The writer is president of the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore Inc.

Israeli wall is barrier to peace

I recently returned from a 17-day trip to Palestine and Israel with 15 American Presbyterians. We were aghast at what we saw and heard from the people we interviewed there.

The Israeli leadership is building a wall and checkpoints in Palestinian areas to defend its illegal settlements in the West Bank.

The wall is humiliating to Palestinians and causes massive unemployment. Like our war in Iraq, it is ill-conceived, ill-executed and counterproductive.

This wall is made possible by our aid to Israel. It is universally opposed by Palestinians and is also opposed by many Israelis.

For more than 20 years, the Israeli leadership has continuously pledged to the United States that it will not expand its illegal settlements. It has just as continuously ignored those promises.

Now the Israeli leadership feels it needs the wall and checkpoints to support the settlements.

The U.S. is being played for a fool by the Israeli leadership.

It is not anti-Israeli to oppose this wall, any more than it is anti-American to criticize the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison.

By building the wall, the Israeli leadership is trading false security for the soul of its nation.

And the United States is complicit in this effort.

Donald C. Erickson, Annapolis

Donor's waffling teaches lessons

Howard Castleman has unwittingly taught the Patterson High School students some lessons in how to conduct yourself in business and in life to generate ill will and bad publicity ("Firm reneges on scholarships," June 3).

First, when faced with unforeseen change, refuse to work together to find a solution. Second, do not keep your promises. Third, blame the other guy for your actions.

Thankfully, the Patterson High School faculty and staff are demonstrating more-desirable traits in community leaders: maturity and insight.

Working together to right this sad situation, they are raising the scholarship money for the students themselves.

The Patterson High School community also deserves to be commended for keeping its priorities in order by recognizing the passing of Air Force Maj. Gerald Thomas.

Some PR flack once said that any publicity is good publicity. Mr. Castleman is surely learning otherwise.

Sue Keller, Finksburg

Helping girls get meaning of math

It wasn't until my senior year in high school that I began to like math. And I truly believe that this was because my math teacher was a woman, which is why I found the article "Gender gap clues" (May 30) so intriguing.

For years, I languished in the back of my math classes afraid to raise my hand for fear of appearing stupid or not "getting it" as my male classmates appeared so easily to do.

My male math teachers had been serious, gruff sorts who didn't have time or patience to answer my numerous questions because, like many people who excelled in English, reading and languages, I needed to understand why 2 + 2 = 4, not just accept it as gospel.

With a lot of patience and a sense of humor, a female math teacher revealed the wonders of algebra and geometry, which resulted in my first A in math.

Unfortunately, the feeling of accomplishment I felt ended in college. There I encountered harried, overworked male teaching assistants, including a 26-year-old male math whiz who countered my struggles to understand his algebraic formulas and manic calculations with the response, "This stuff is remedial. You should know it already."

Needless to say, my confidence in my math abilities plummeted.

Fast forward many years and, irony of all ironies, I am employed in a math-driven industry.

And today, while it is disappointing and embarrassing that such a rich, technologically advanced country as the United States lags behind Norway and Iceland in gender equality, as the mother of a 7-year-old daughter, I can't afford to wait for us to catch up.

While my daughter is a strong reader, I feel compelled to nurture her love of reading and math equally.

I encourage my daughter to see math as a puzzle or sentence that uses numbers instead of words to solve its riddle. This keeps learning math easy and fun for both of us.

I can't predict whether such tactics will guarantee her a career in science, technology, engineering or a math-related field.

But I can try to ensure that she will have that choice.

Leslie Carter, Baltimore

City must comply with federal law

The writer of the letter "Bill adds to threat group homes pose" (June 4) criticized a bill being considered by the City Council that would remove zoning restrictions and neighborhood input for proposed group homes.

The letter writer may be unaware that the federal Fair Housing Amendment Act of 1988 designated individuals with disabilities who reside in group homes as "families."

Therefore, any local regulatory activity that is not applied to families, such as zoning restrictions or neighborhood input on their presence, cannot be applied to group homes for people with disabilities.

The City Council, then, is just considering legislation that would make the city's practices consistent with federal law.

That is a good thing.

R. Scott Graham, Ellicott City

The writer is a former president of the Maryland Community Behavioral Health Association.

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