Letters for February 27-March 4 

Readers sound off on AC Transit's Belgian travel and "The Buses from Hell"

Page 4 of 5

The Van Hool buses are bad to ride. BEFORE I was disabled, I fell off a rear seat because there was no support to hold onto when the bus lurched. SINCE disability, I could not take my walker through the front door because the aisle narrowed, and I cannot lift it up to bypass the obstruction. So I have to use the middle plank. However, this is difficult to get clear of passengers when the bus is crowded. They mill around without a place to go.

Twice the ramp was unable to be raised because of equipment failure ... passengers were able to take the walker and help me down. I was lucky that I wasn't in my heavy motorized wheelchair. If I am using my walker and sitting on a bus seat, the seats just don't feel stable; somehow I am sliding around on them. I couldn't figure out why until I realized that it isn't the seat that is the problem, but the lurching nature of the ride. And it also explains why I have back pain when I have to take a long bus ride. I now prefer to use BART whenever possible ... it means a longer walk sometimes, but it is a much shorter traveling time [including the walking], and it is also cheaper, more comfortable, and physically safer. When I do take my wheelchair, it IS nice to have the button to notify the driver when I want to get off ... but I cannot see far enough, when seated in the wheelchair, to know when I am getting near the stop, nor can I read signposts ahead. These are inconvenient and unsafe buses to ride. I repeatedly commented on this on a public transport survey, but the surveyor seemed not to want to pay attention to my complaints. I avoid bus travel whenever possible. I used to like taking them, but there was a long period of time when I avoided the routes that had Van Hools. Now I cannot do that. Too many Van Hools around. So I avoid buses when possible. I am relieved when the bus arrives and it is a "kissing" bus. They are much more comfortable.

I have not complained formally because I don't know where to complain. There is no address given to whom and where to complain, where someone will listen. And there seems to be very little substantive response from the people responsible. A remark that something like "only" 19 percent of the passengers are dissatisfied [I am paraphrasing, I do not have the quote] sounds like dismissal, and shows no realization that the other passengers are voting with their feet. And I suspect that the "only" 19 percent was garnered not by asking what was wrong, but by keeping certain subjects unexplored. The public transit survey I took part in, the survey-taker was not eager to note or explore my complaints about the buses. Certainly the bus drivers I have asked, all three of them, have been vociferous about their not liking the Van Hool buses.

AND, I abhor that the buses were not tested in the US, and that US buses weren't bought. In this time of recession, we do not have to support the European Union first. Nor do we have to copy European methods of transportation. NYC has a good public transportation system. It sounds like we have a board overseeing public transportation that is inexperienced, that is overinvolved in a theoretical idea of transforming Berkeley transportation, rather than concerned with providing a reliable, safe, economic, and comfortable service. Their decisions have been a disaster to the population they are supposed to serve. The buses are often late, come less seldom, are much more expensive, and are more uncomfortable and unsafe to ride. And the trip takes longer. I used to enjoy riding buses, now I use them only when I must, and try for the routes that have more kneeling buses. I am sorry for the repetitions in this letter, but I have a high level of frustration and anger. It takes a much longer time to get where I want to go, when I now have to transfer at the city center and then have a SECOND wait time for the SECOND bus. I got hurt when I fell off the chair. My back hurts when I use the buses because of the jouncing. It is incredible how badly managed this service has become. The only thing that improved over the last few years was the drivers' attitudes ... they are more courteous in the last few years than they had been. They do a responsible job with pride and consideration when the situation allows them to. The money for their medical plan was well spent.

Mr. Gammon, if you can send this letter somewhere where it might do some good, like the Attorney General's office, I would be ecstatic. I cannot make the meetings because I am disabled, elderly, and would have to use the bus service to get to and back from the meeting, in the dark, and [today] cold. And my back will hurt. I simply don't see where my presence will make a difference when there have been able and intelligent voices raised and ignored. After all, I am some of the "only" 19 percent.

Doreen Kossove, Berkeley

Post Hoc Rhetoric Fallacy

This article appalls me! First of all, the journalist uses Christian dualism in the title and grabs attention by demonizing AC Transit. If there's any way to lose credibility as a writer, it is to create distinct opposition between you and your subject and to not give their arguments due consideration. Of course, Mr. Gammon does provide the reader Fernandez' justification, but each time he mentions it, he frames it with scathing overtones. This is not the kind of reporting I desire.

I understand that Mr. Gammon wants to gain the attention of his readers and to perhaps provide an extreme alternative to the drastic right-minded papers that flood the American journalist landscape, but is this method so effective? Does his method create more opposition than progressive movement? Is an us-against-them-attitude really applicable in this case?

It's in AC Transit's best interest to care about the people and not to let some infatuation guide policy. Face it, there are a lot of other factors involved in bus ridership and public transportation than just the type of bus one purchases.

To say that the bus type catalyzed a downward spiral in AC Transit ridership, Mr. Gammon had to make a very, very, very long leap. And this leap demonstrates and plays off of our dedication to the familiar and fear of the new. Perhaps the buses are different, but what's wrong with difference. Is it a problem, if you have to look your fellow passengers in the eyes or deal with variant seating arrangements? These buses are cleaner, more spacious, more comfortable, and more attractive than their older counterparts. And how does he go so far as to say that these buses are responsible for injuries, when it really seems like these accidents were the result of human negligence? Can we just admit that "shit happens," instead of trying to traces lines to connect coincidence?

Having you ever heard of post hoc rhetoric fallacy? Because it applies here.

Mr. Gammon caught my attention, but he doesn't gain my support or respect; rather, he gains my disgust. I wonder if he has thought about writing for Lyndon LaRouche?

Angela Raelene Knowles, San Francisco


A group of us have been e-mailing, calling, and talking with AC Transit staff at the Transbay Terminal for a year now! Sooo clap your hands, tap your feet and join the chorus: Dump the Van Hool, Dump the Van Hool, Dump the Van Hool.

Ann Jennings, Albany

"Local Licks," Music, 1/2

A Big Vik Deal

I just wanted to say thank you so much for taking the time to mention my CD on your page.  As a Bay Area artist it is very encouraging to know that we have local resources who do actually take the time to listen to what's out there and talk about it.  As much as I appreciate friends, fans, and supporters, it can be difficult to get objective opinions on a project. This may seem like a small deal to some, but it is very much appreciated!


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