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Cheap, cheap 

A simple, elegant way to increase the demand for MARTA is to increase the cost of its substitute, driving ("Mara does MARTA," June 19). This could be done by increasing the gas tax. Presently, Georgia has the lowest gas tax in the country at 7.5 cents per gallon, and hence the cheapest gas in the country (and of any modern country). This state has a disproportionate share of large, inefficient SUVs. Increase the cost of gas and you increase the demand for fuel-efficient cars and public transport.

Unfortunately, this should have been done long ago, as the city is already screwed up. Suburbs continue to pop up nearly to Dahlonega. The chances of this happening are slim, of course, as the good old boys consider large inefficient cars a critical part of "American culture."

To me, the situation is depressing and nearly intractable given the values of the locals. Nobody sees the forest for the trees, and pretty soon we won't have either.

-- Brian Harper, Atlanta



Rewarded for riding
(In response to "Mara does MARTA," June 19): About once a month, I must use my car to commute to work to carry a heavy or awkward load there or back. The prospect fills me with dread -- most days I take the train to work and to any activity after work. The subway is almost always quick, clean and efficient, and its on-time performance is exemplary at most hours of the day or night. I allocate a little over an hour for my working commute. My car commute, by contrast, is a 45-minute trip around the northern part of I-285.

Of course, in order to achieve this I had to change jobs. After nine years, I am still convinced that this was one of the smartest things I ever did for my personal life. Using public transportation means that I never sit in traffic, and the cold wait on the subway stop on a winter morning is amply repaid by the chance to sit in a warm dry subway car and read my current novel, study a computer book, or catch up on my Creative Loafing shortly after.

The commuting picture Mara Shalhoup presented in her article (Cover, "Mara does MARTA," June 19) was barely familiar to me. If I worked only five miles from home, I'd bike it -- I commute home from one of my monthly meetings this way, and the five-mile trip takes me about half an hour. Granted, I am genetically lucky and don't suffer from allergies or crippling sinus misery, nor am I lame or blind. Perhaps Shalhoup's fragility is what really keeps her in her car? I am, after all, only 45.

-- Charles Shapiro, Avondale Estates



Diary didn't help
Reading Mara Shalhoup's description of her week on MARTA ("Mara does MARTA," June 19), I found myself asking a question: "Wouldn't it be much more helpful if instead of endless articles complaining about how MARTA does not work, your paper actually helped people learn how to use it?"

This article is not the first I have read where a reporter takes on the task of relying on MARTA for a day or a week or uses MARTA to race against cars or bicycles. It is not the first I have read where the reporter describes missing this or that bus or trying to make impossible appointments all over town that even in a car would be dreadful. It is not the first to point out the flaws of the MARTA system, which I think we all acknowledge and are frustrated by.

What would be a first is an article that actually explains how to use MARTA. The people at MARTA do not always do a good job of this, but I believe a newspaper could.

-- Wendy Darling, Atlanta



Not worth it
John Sugg writes, "Homelessness has many causes" (Fishwrapper, "Right and left have same enemy: big media," June 19). However, the basic reason for homelessness can be summed up rather simply: Some people's labor is not worth what it takes to support them. Financial competency exists on a continuum from those like Mike Tyson and Eminem whose labor is worth millions to those whose labor is not worth minimum wage.

Leftists are not good at grasping the reality of human limitations, but they must come to grips with this painful truth about the less fortunate if they are to meaningfully address the problem of homelessness. Perhaps a floor should be placed on income so that those who are the least financially competent do not automatically and unavoidably become annoyances, hazards and eyesores for the rest of the people. If that phrasing sounds callous, it is because I believe that the case for a secure public safety net is best made on the grounds of what is best for the common good rather than reflexively appealing to compassion. We are more likely to help "the least of these" when we do so because we are bettering things for ourselves as well.

-- Denise Noe, Atlanta



Deserving
(In response to News & Views, The Weekly Scalawag, June 19): You know, if anyone's fucking stupid enough to spend $85 to sit in the rain at Chastain, they probably deserve to be shit on.

-- Steve Dollar, Brooklyn, N.Y.



Unrecognizable
I highly disagree with your review of the Neil Young show (News & Views, The Weekly Scalawag, June 19). While the crowd was talkative and impatient, I don't think that was a reflection of Neil's music. It was a reflection of the crowd not being respectful or open minded to NEW music.

Had someone done a little Internet research before spending $70 on a ticket, they would have known that Neil was indeed going to playing Greendale songs for almost the entire tour.

Just because Young played 10 new songs does not make music any less enjoyable. Folks cannot go to shows expecting to hear the "greatest hits" every time and expect the artist to find interest in touring one decade to the next. For a great artist like Young to be around that long, he has to keep changing it up.

Anyone familiar with his tours knows that he often tries something new (only for it to become legendary 10 years later). I think Greendale is some of Young's best work yet and definitely some of the best out there today.

I think it is a shame that not only did Chastain's fans not give it a fair chance, but that your magazine cannot recognize wonderfully played, well-written music as it happens. The subjects Neil touched on and brilliantly coined into songs were subjects that your paper speaks of all the time. You'd think the two would go hand in hand, but unfortunately not.

-- Jayne Clamp, Atlanta



Different targets
Tray Butler: I must say that I found your remark about Showtime's "Soul Food" inappropriate (The Watcher, "Sunday, lovely Sunday," June 12). This series is far from drivel. As an African-American woman who tries hard to find programming that reflects African-Americans in a positive light, and not just as comedians, I am an avid fan of "Soul Food." The show is probably the only African-American drama on television. For this reason, I make sure that I subscribe to Showtime in order to support its cast of talented African-American actors and actresses. Finally African-Americans can turn on the television and watch a show that shows healthy relationships between African-American males and females. The show deals with real life issues that I can relate to.

More importantly, it shows the versatility of the African-American woman -- Terri is a successful lawyer, Bird is a successful business owner, and Maxine, a former stay-at-home mother of three, now works part time. This show should not be compared to a show such as "Six Feet Under" because both series target different viewers and by doing so, choose content accordingly.

-- Tiffany Franklin, Austell



Personal gain
I was overjoyed to see that a journalist could finally be strong enough to stand up and show some integrity (Fishwrapper, "Was CBS suckered by 'Anonymous'?" June 12). I am very close to many who are being directly affected by Rita Katz and Steve Emerson's wild allegations and I thank you for your honesty and fairness. When someone is accused of something they haven't done, the best thing that can happen to them is to hear someone say the truth.

-- Omar Altalib, Sterling, Va.



Grateful for help
A note to let you know that your article in the latest Creative Loafing about transgender and the Pride events (Headcase, "The gift of the transgendered," June 19) caused me to reconfirm that diversity in the gay community is absolutely required for any of our goals to have credibility. I too was mentored and guided by a transgender person in my coming out [during the late 1970s]. At 32 and seemingly very straight, I was befriended by Nina and told very forcefully that she was going to see that this process was done right for me. She did. I am forever grateful for her and for our very diverse group.

-- Tom Harvey, Atlanta

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