Letters to the Editor
Reader Bob Fesmire in his critique of your article ("Prius, Schmius," Cover Story, Dec. 12) on hybrid cars (Letters, Jan. 2) wanted an explanation of how someone could use more gas by driving a car with better mileage. That's easy—drive more miles.
This is exactly what has been happening, as can be verified with an online search. Since the first CAFE standards were implemented in 1975, vehicle efficiency has improved 50 percent, while average miles driven per vehicle per year has doubled. The net result is no change in fuel consumption per vehicle per year.
Mr. Fesmire accused Metro of choosing a provocative headline over facts but his claim that hybrids offer the most immediate way to significantly reduce our oil consumption is an assertion, not a fact, and is not supported by historical data.
There are many forecasts of lower fuel consumption due to adoption of higher fuel economy standards. Most of them are self-serving for the special interests that published them. In any case, they are predictions, not facts. These predictions have been wrong in the past and there is no reason to think that they are any more accurate now.
Re "Prius, Schmius": Ms. Sherbert's article does a good job chronicling the history and myriad of cultural issues facing mass transit. However, the only hope for mass transit is a major shift in land use policies, not government subsidies. Innovative land use policies such as transit-oriented development (TOD) must take hold at the local level in order to make this happen. TOD faces many hurdles like neighborhood opposition due to parking concerns and must be embraced by city leaders. Ridership will only increase (and federal funding for that matter) if mass transit and housing are conveniently located adjacent to one another—a tough task for many of our suburban landscapes.
The city of San Jose recently adopted a no employment lands conversion policy that prohibits underutilized properties in areas adjacent to mass transit from being converted to residential use. For example, the midtown area of San Jose sits at the confluence of the Vasona Light rail station and the Cahill Station and is ideal for TOD. The city and its residents must now wait until the general plan gets updated (realistically a 3–5 year process) to see if we take advantage of the transit infrastructure that currently exists. In the interim, taxpayers will continue to subsidize mass transit and ridership will suffer.
If we're all serious about getting people out of their cars, we must support changes in city land-use policies.
I am sure glad that I saw the movie Juno before I read Richard von Busack's review in the Metro. Otherwise I might have missed a film that I enjoyed as much as anything I saw in 2007. Von Busack's flaw as a reviewer, and this has been noted often in letters to the editor, is his insistence on putting his personal quirks and preferences (e.g., I like anything directed by ...) over reasonably objective guidance for movie audiences to take their tips from. After all, a useful review, when properly crafted, ought to function as a public service and not as a bully pulpit for the reviewer's subjective stance. Mr. von Busack's personal matrix of cultural touchstones should not be used to gauge a film's merits or demerits.
Accordingly, a good editor should ensure that such bits be left on the cutting room floor. Regardless, and certainly lacking proper editing of the reviews, von Busack himself could stand to be a bit more circumspect.
Now, back to Juno: von Busack claims that the film has been "chucked on the chin by most of the nation's critics." Well, given a 84 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes, an 81 percent on MetaCritic, a No. 1 for 2007 from Roger Ebert, and a No. 4 for 2007 from Richard Roeper, von Busack's review of the reviewers is not very spot on! In any case, from my reading of von Busack's reviews for many years, he doesn't seem to care much what others think (not a good quality for one serving the public; think Kevin Martin, for example).
Granted, von Busack has steered me toward many good movies over the years, but he undoubtedly has steered me toward as many bad movies and away from movies well worth seeing; and this I regret.
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