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Port Authority, why not keep it simple?

As a former Port Authority rider, I was slightly sickened by the Aug. 15 editorial "No Fare: Transit Riders Deserve a Smart Fix on Dumb Boxes." I would like to think the Port Authority would be more concerned with its pre-existing problems than in making its bus payment system high-tech so that people can pay with refillable plastic cards rather than good old cash or the bus passes and tickets already in place.

I understand that it is important that any organization keep up with technology to make everyday life for its customers more convenient, but I would like to see the Port Authority put 100 percent of its efforts and money toward keeping its buses on the roads in proper working order and keeping as many passengers on public transportation as possible.

I have been on buses when it was near 20 degrees outside and the door would not shut, I have witnessed multiple passengers getting struck in the head with windows flying open, and had the breaks fail and the engine shut down while we were driving down a windy hill.

Let us not forget the continuing service and route cuts. I firmly believe the Port Authority needs to spend its money much more wisely and solve the problems it already has rather than finding new ones, especially with a system that has a poor track record like Scheidt & Bachmann.

Penn Hills

Consult Denver

My husband and I just got back from visiting our son in Golden, Colo. While we were in Denver on the street known as the Mall (stores, restaurants, bowling alley, movie theater), I noticed the bus came every three minutes. It's free and gets passengers from one end of the street to the other.

Steve lives in Golden and can take a bus that runs about every 15 minutes to Denver, a trip of about 25 miles for $2. Denver still has a thriving shopping area, and for a Saturday there were a lot of people downtown.

If the Port Authority wants to sign the death warrant of the city of Pittsburgh, it should go ahead with discontinuing routes and schedules. If workers cannot get to work on a convenient schedule, Pittsburgh will die a quick death.

Perhaps the Port Authority can contact Denver to see how it is managing, since it seems to be doing a much better job.

West View

Urban bicycling

Question: Why don't people in Pittsburgh ride bikes more?

Answer: There aren't enough bike lanes and infrastructure and there are far too many potholes and road hazards, all of which are highly hazardous to bicyclists' health. There is also no strong impetus to ride a bike to the store, to work, for fun, to wherever. Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and City Council need to address the infrastructure needs immediately, especially the myriad potholes.

As for the other essential urban biking variable, that of motivation to get out and ride, Pittsburghers need to adjust their societal perspectives to account for a greener and healthier society. Pittsburgh is already ranked No. 3 in the nation for air particulate pollution. The health and well-being of the present and future generations of Pittsburghers and all humanity should be motivation enough to ride.


A treasure lost

Twenty-six years ago, Joan Friedberg and Elizabeth Segel had a vision that providing children with their own books would create lifelong readers and that reading was the key to a richer life. They targeted the underserved population from birth to age 5.

Over the years, they introduced more strategies for making lifelong readers including involving parents who often had reading problems of their own. More and more children and parents were reached throughout Allegheny County. The staff and programs grew into the multidimensional organization known as Beginning with Books. They provided a model for family literacy nationally as well as locally.

This month, the board of that organization shut down the program ("Literacy Nonprofit for Poor Children Closes," Aug. 8). I don't know all the reasons for the collapse of the program. As a longtime contributor I have had no letter or e-mail explaining it. What I do know is that Beginning with Books was a treasure of this area and its demise is a tragedy.


Contempt exposed

Pennsylvania's Republican Party proved beyond any doubt that it holds in contempt anyone sympathetic to the ideals of the tea party movement or anyone critical of the two-party monopoly.

On Aug. 9 GOP operatives filed last-minute challenges to ballot access petitions of the Libertarian and tea party statewide candidates (governor, lieutenant governor and U.S. senator). According to spokesman Mike Barley, the state GOP supports the challenge.

Petition signatures can be invalidated for reasons as innocent as omitting a middle initial. What's worse, the challenge is "loser pays." Deep-pocket Republicans are immune if too few signatures are invalidated. Challenger candidates, however, face devastating financial liability if just one too many is invalidated. In 2006 the Democrats' challenge cost the Green Party U.S. Senate candidate $80,000 for his crime of running for office.

Given Pennsylvania's decline from decades of incumbent party malfeasance, it's no wonder they require Bonusgate tactics, coercion and threats to protect their career politicians.

GOP claims of being a kindred spirit to America's grassroots awakening are a glaring falsehood. It would be more in character of the party to suggest banning third-party and challenger candidates.


A care lifeline

Thank you to our local members of Pennsylvania's congressional delegation (Jason Altmire, Mark Critz, Kathy Dahlkemper, Mike Doyle, Bob Casey and Arlen Specter) who voted to extend critical Medicaid aid to the states ("Pa. to Get $1 Billion for Teacher Jobs, Medicaid," Aug. 11). This was not an easy vote, and these legislators deserve recognition for putting the welfare of their constituents before the safety of their jobs.

Also, thank you to Gov. Ed Rendell for his tireless advocacy on behalf of this legislation.

This nearly $668 million in additional funds to Pennsylvania for Medicaid will benefit many vital programs and services. It is especially essential to nursing home residents and to the dedicated men and women who care for them. Two-thirds of those living in nursing homes are on the Medicaid program, and for each one of them, the cost of care exceeds the reimbursement for that care by an average of $14 a day, or $5,000 a year. Each year, it gets harder and harder to continue to provide the kind of compassionate, quality care that these frail and elderly individuals need and deserve.

While the Medicaid extension won't solve our nation's long-term funding crisis, it does extend a lifeline that is desperately needed right now to care for our loved ones in nursing homes.

Highland Center

Social Security will be just fine with a few tweaks

Regarding the 75th anniversary of Social Security: It's the best program the United States has for senior citizens along with Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans. Social Security has taken the burden of senior citizens from their children.

Social Security should not be included in the Washington (deficit commission) talks ("Medicare Called Stronger, Social Security Worse Off," Aug. 6). The main reason is that it did not and will not ever contribute to the deficit. It pays itself as an insurance company. The people's earnings pay it for themselves. The IOUs are in the U.S. Treasury bonds and are very secure, just like guaranteed.

Social Security needs only small adjustments as we have done 10 times in the past. It is not bankrupt or going away any time soon. It is fully funded till 2037, and after that, even if nothing is done, it's 75 percent payable. The surplus is $2.4 trillion and will grow at least four years ahead as is.

The naysayers are only doing this negative talk because:

(1) They have ideological differences in thinking and belief.

(2) They think or believe each person is to live for himself, as in libertarianism.

(3) They blind themselves to the basics, as it is paid by people's earnings.

This is a dangerous mind-changing process and path for them to place our children and grandchildren on -- that Social Security will not be there for them.

In the end, all Social Security needs is a tweaking as we did in the past, and all will be fine.


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