Week of July 11, 2001

Jul 11, 2001 at 4:00 am
Bi-State desperately needs an overhaul: Thank you for your article on Bi-State [D.J. Wilson, "The Transit Authority," RFT, July 4]. It has given me vindication. I'm a resident of the Lafayette Square area and work near downtown. I have been a rider on this system exclusively for the past four years.

When I started riding Bi-State, I thought it would simply be a breeze to get to work at a job that was five minutes from my home. Wonder of wonders: I wouldn't need a car, because everything was so very close and I could spend that car note, tag fees and insurance money on other things.

No such luck. When I walk up to Tucker and Lafayette or Park and Tucker, I am, more often than not, standing at the stop for 15 minutes or longer while express bus after express bus blows past me, heading toward downtown and my five-minutes-away job. Some days, as many as six buses will go by before either the local (Gravois or Carondelet) will stop to pick me up. There have been very few days when express drivers (the ones who are probably in a good mood) will stop.

When I questioned one driver about what the problem was with picking up passengers in the city, he told me that most of the time, the drivers have to meet a schedule or the other passengers complain about them stopping, or they just don't know that they can stop to let on passengers in the city.

One time I stepped on an express bus and some passenger behind me piped up, "This is an express bus." I turned around and said, "No shit, Sherlock," which shut down any more comments from the peanut-head gallery. It's almost as if these people, drivers included, think these express buses are some kind of exclusive club, open only to a select few when in fact they paid just as much as I did to get on that stupid bus in the first place.

I have written letters and e-mails and made phone calls to Bi-State, all of which have fallen on deaf ears, about the lack of consistency in passenger pickups. I have even called to find out if either of the places I stand are considered "express" stops and was told that since the "stop book" is no longer available, they do not have a record of exactly where the stops are anymore.

So, here I stand, taking a half-hour to 45 minutes to get to work, when it should actually only take about 15 or 20 minutes to get from Tucker and Lafayette to Jefferson and Market.

I'd like to give heartfelt thanks to both you and Mike McGrath for saying something that I have been trying to get across for a very long time. Bi-State desperately needs an overhaul and, most importantly, an attitude adjustment for every single last one of its drivers.
Diane Lynn
St. Louis

Only three people think McGrath is credible: The article by D.J. Wilson in your July 4 issue is an insult and an injustice to the members of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 788. The members I represent are hardworking, dedicated individuals who perform a very stressful job under very difficult conditions, and they do not deserve to be portrayed as anything less.

Mr. McGrath has shopped his musing to anyone with an e-mail address, and it is telling that your publication is the only one that thought it worthy of print.

I told Mr. Wilson in our interview that I had a documented example of Mr. McGrath's handiwork that would show that he was not the expert he portrayed himself to be, but that was omitted; the article was not intended to be balanced or fair but simply a tasteless attempt at slapping Bi-State and its employees.

In closing, after reading Mr. Wilson's article, I still believe there are only three people in St. Louis who think Mr. McGrath is an expert: Mr. Wilson, Mr. McGrath, and the moron at Bi-State who hired him in the first place.
Herbert S. Dill
President, ATU Local 788

St. Louis

Bi-State needs more buses, not light rail: I have been a Bi-State rider since 1993, and overall my experience riding the bus has been a good one.

I found the comments of [union president] Herb Dill to be those of an arrogant union hack. The union wants to maintain the status quo. The union leadership has no desire to improve Bi-State as long as the members keep paying their dues. Mr. Dill couldn't care less.

All mass-transit systems run in the red. That should hardly be a surprise to a car-driving culture.

The drop in ridership is a result of many factors, but the 25-cent increase in the fare a few years ago didn't help. The poor are the principal customer for mass transit. An increase of 25 cents doesn't sound like much to those of us who can afford to pay, but to someone with little money to spare, it is!

I'm afraid the "fixes" Bi-State wants to implement will only cause a further decrease in the number of people who ride the bus.

MetroLink is a sick joke perpetrated by politicians with the hope that somehow a light-rail system would enhance the image of St. Louis. Bi-State needs more buses, not a light rail that no one rides.

If my employer didn't subsidize me for riding the bus, I would also be one of the million not riding.
Mark Sparr Erickson
St. Louis

We have a new captain: After reading "The Transit Authority," I was overwhelmed by the amount of passion, not to mention knowledge, time and research, Mike McGrath has undergone which could possibly transform this lagging transit system into a class act for St.Louis -- something nobody else has taken such personal expense to achieve. I believe an integrated transit system is a small but important thread in restoring St. Louis to an integrated, viable, livable community. McGrath has a vision for our culture and our city's future. Attention, political leaders of our great town: You have a new captain aboard the ship, by the name of McGrath. Listen and obey him well.
Scott Austin Nauert

Where does magic money come from? I was shocked and sorry to see Adam Smith mentioned by someone that would, in the previous paragraph, say, "We owe it to the riding public to secure as much funding as we can." Just where does he think this magic money comes from?

If Bi-State couldn't survive without the very "visible fist" of government force for funding, then it should be gone.

While we're at it, let's dump Amtrak. It would probably be cheaper to buy everyone in the country a car than to keep "government transportation" going.
Tim Jamison
via the Internet

Stomp the Mudhole
Your critics should be encouraged: Being a journalist, particularly a critic, is not about coddling inept artists because they're local or because they quit their day jobs to pursue a dream. If something is bad and foisted on the public, it's the critic's duty to say so. I was happy to see that the People Project did not go unpunished and that René Spencer Saller busted a magazine that had the nerve to say to local bands: "Don't ask us for a cover story if you can't support us (buy ads)" [" Radar Station," RFT, June 27].

Your letters column has recently been filled with squeals of pain and fury from the chastised or those who don't believe in the concept of quality control. This approach to art -- that there is no such thing as good or bad because it's subjective, so everybody be nice and clap -- is insulting to artists who have standards and don't trot out crappy first attempts at whatever it is they do.

Anyone who doesn't want feedback unless it's positive is not here to make my world more beautiful, only to get warm fuzzies, and this does not beautify my world. These people should not be encouraged. Your critics should be encouraged: Thanks for being conscientious monitors of our civic culture, and stomp the mudhole wherever you need to.
Phoebe Love
St. Louis

County of the Apes
Chimp owner bears responsibility: The person most responsible for the death of Suzy the chimp is Connie Casey [Wm. Stage, " Going Ape," RFT, June 27]. The responsibility of a 52-year-old far exceeds that of a 17-year-old. Casey should post a sign in front of her property that states, "My lack of judgment and the neglect of safety for my neighbors caused the death of Suzy." I think her public slamming of this boy is inexcusable and hides her own guilt in this situation.
Jessica Gardner
Defiance, Mo.

How threatening is a tranquilized chimp? I am sorry Jason [Coats] has had problems, but that is no excuse for his behavior. Jason is 18, and, by most standards, he's an adult and should act like one. If he was so frightened, why did he come back outside? That is not the action of someone who is afraid. That is the action of someone showing off for his friends. He shot the chimp in the back -- how threatening could she have been? Her back was to him, and she was already tranquilized. I am sure that is what made her such an easy target (although, according to Jason, he has a lot of guns and gun experience). Did he not think of all the people standing around and driving down the road and on the other side of the road who could have been killed instead of or in addition to Suzy? There were multiple eyewitness to say that it was not necessary or self-defense to kill Suzy.

I know that children will not always tell the truth when they know they will be in trouble. This man (not boy) needs help! He definitely has a problem.
Mary Overton
via the Internet

An act of cowardice; a reprehensible response: To kill in the defense of a loved one is an act of bravery deserving commendation, but to wait until after the aggressor is subdued and then open fire, as Jason Coats did, is merely cowardice and deserving of contempt. In my opinion, he owes the value of the animal and possibly some community service.

That being said, I must also point out that the Caseys' actions since the incident are equally reprehensible, if not more so. "Name withheld" from last week's letters column rightly calls them "animal-rights terrorists" for their tactics of libel, slander and endangerment by proxy. Note that these are the same methods employed by anti-abortion terrorists -- dishonorable tricks, no matter who is using them. Jason's lawyer should have grounds for a hefty countersuit.
John Payton
via the Internet

Too many animals are being brutalized: Suzy was brutally shot to death by an individual with no respect for life. With the recent rash of episodes of horrible animal abuse happening in our community (Suzy the chimp, Dusty the Dalmatian mix, a kitten in Bridgeton, a stray puppy in Granite City), our readers, community and legislators need to take these crimes more seriously than a misdemeanor charge and a fine. These offenders need hard jail time. It is apparent from your article that Jason Coats thinks he is a celebrity being described as a "monkey murderer" when really this young man is a human being who has no respect for life.

Let's push our lawmakers to punish these cruel offenders to the maximum sentence. Jason Coats and Michael Welch (Dusty's murderer) need to be off the streets. They are a threat to society and any living, breathing being.
Kerri Daniels
St. Louis