In response to Ken Young's letter from April 15, "Think twice before voting yes to an under-financed rail line," I would like to respectfully disagree with several of his statements. Young stated that riders of commuter rail trains would pay 35 percent of the cost for operation, and tax payers would pay the other 65 percent "forever."
Fare suggestions at the moment are just that: suggestions. Operators of similar commuter rail systems recommend fare pricing models designed to cover more than 50 percent of the operating expenses at the fare box. We will leave pending toll lanes and the impossible task, not to mention cost, of increasing capacity through roads alone for another discussion.
Young suggests that the only people who will benefit from commuter rail are the "developers of walkable transit-oriented areas around the proposed rail stations," and that rail lines won't solve traffic congestion by themselves.
Of course commuter rail won't solve traffic congestion alone. It must be part of a well integrated system. It will, however, provide permanent congestion relief for users in a mode 25 times safer than the automobile, contribute to sustainable land-use practices and contribute to better air quality for the health of all the region's residents.
Would Young dispute that all users would also benefit from the reliability of travel time for commuter rail service? Would he dispute that parents will be more likely to make their children's sporting events more often if they had a reliable transportation alternative than their car or SUV to get them to and from their homes to their places of business at Emory University, the CDC, Midtown or downtown and back?
To say the only people to benefit from commuter rail are developers is inaccurate. Even people who choose not to use the rail line will benefit from fewer cars on the road and fewer carbon emissions spewing into the air we breathe. Commuters and students who would choose rail over roads if given the option enjoy a commute that is 25 times safer and gives them the ability to safely use their cell phones to talk, text or laptops during their ride.
True, the automobile is highly flexible, but is also subject to the wide disparities in daily commute times based on traffic accidents, weather, holiday volume, increasing truck traffic and the stress that goes with it. Commuter rail service and its riders are immune to all of that.
Along with soaring fuel prices, I believe actual ridership numbers for commuter rail service will far exceed all projections.
Young asks if the last 40 years has been a disaster for Gwinnett and the surrounding areas? It hasn't been a disaster until recently. But following the same transportation model that brought prosperity at the beginning of the explosive growth will be the region's and county's demise if more and feasible alternatives to the automobile are not put in place immediately.
The only thing worse than doing nothing is making the same transportation mistakes that have created the current dire situation.
Emory Morsberger is a Lawrenceville-based developer and chairman of Georgians for the Brain Train.