To the editors:

Comments relating to Harold Henderson’s transit article published on April 3, 1992 [“Chicago Transit Atrocity”]:

My observations of the way developers and agencies of government relate to public transit lead me to conclude that there is little political will in the United States, either nationally or locally, for establishing environments conducive to transit. Public funds for maintaining and extending transit infrastructure are hard to come by, and development, even in the city, is seldom required to accommodate transit access, much less include facilities to make transit easy to provide and convenient to use. Transit seems to be thought of by those in upper and upper middle class economic circumstances as something for the use of less prosperous people, and those unable to drive due to youth, age, and infirmity. Certainly not themselves.

Not only do the wealthiest people present the most persuasive models for how people ought to live, but they have the most influence in determining governmental policies. These are the folks who have promoted the throwaway society, leaving the rest of us to deal with the effects of their arrogance and ignorance. As a class, affluent people feel they should be allowed to live wherever and however they can afford to live. And as long as real estate developers and suppliers of luxury goods are willing to pander to them, and politicians are willing to subsidize them with infrastructure and waste disposal, they can. Questions about how much of the nation’s and the world’s resources an American is entitled to consume typically never come up.

As a nation, we’ve been able to trash the world for so long, it’s become a national habit to disregard the legitimate rights and aspirations of peoples less powerful than ourselves. We expect to retain a higher standard of living than we justify by our efforts to compete in world markets, and we don’t want to change.

The fact is, we have to change. We need to develop a much better understanding about how the world works, and make the social and economic adjustments that will enable us to live in it on a sustainable basis. And if we intend to survive, we must share what we learn with the rest of the world.

Michael J. Daley

W. Jarvis