Test their desirability before going all in

I have enjoyed the debate over whether Minneapolis should spend $200 million on streetcars. The reality is that building a healthy transit system is critical for the region's future, but retrofitting streetcars is an untested tool for doing so. Many transit experts are skeptical about the efficiency of streetcars in getting people where they need to go. A simple solution would be to test these routes before spending $200 million. For around $10 million, you could buy vehicles like those used for rail service but with rubber tires and diesel engines. You could run them for a year or two to see exactly what ridership would be. That way you would know whether the investment made sense or not. Once that was done, we could use these vehicles to test other routes, such as on Robert Street or W. 7th Street in St. Paul, and other places where similar service is being explored.

CAROL BECKER, Minneapolis


Anyone willing to make the tough decision?

Is anyone really surprised that the option to reroute freight trains through St. Louis Park in order to clear the way for light rail in Minneapolis is back on the table ("Contentious light-rail plan gets new support," Jan. 31)?

There is a solution, and nobody wants to address it: Get rid of the bike trail and place both light rail and freight in the Kenilworth Corridor without any tunnels, raised platforms, etc. If I'm correct, some properties will have to be condemned to reroute freight, and the right of eminent domain will be employed. If that's true, the same condemnation procedure should be considered in the Kenilworth Corridor to make room for both freight and light rail.

If the above recommendations are unpalatable, perhaps the Kenilworth Corridor proposal for LRT should be abandoned. However, I'm willing to bet that St. Louis Park is going to be the loser regardless.



It's not cool to give deniers a platform

Since weather varies because of natural causes like the "El Niño" effect and the 11-year solar cycle, if you measure temperatures starting with a hot year like 1998, you can make the argument Rolf E. Westgard does that "there's been no warming for 15 years" (Short Takes, Jan. 31). Thus, a 10- or 15-year cycle can mask the devastating long-term rise in global temperatures, the disastrous 4-percent-plus rise in Arctic temperature and the resulting climate change.

I am surprised and angry that the Star Tribune continues to give print space to misleading "facts" that influence public opinion and the making of smart energy policy. Westgard claims to be a geologist, but fails to mention that the American Geological Society has consistently accepted the established science that global warming is real, is potentially devastating and is caused primarily by the burning of fossil fuels.

It's OK to try and fail with alternative energy solutions, but it's not OK to fail to try.

JEANNE JOHNSON, Alexandria, Minn.


Media misrepresent Israeli company

Shame on the Star Tribune and the Associated Press for their biased coverage of actress Scarlett Johansson, her ad for SodaStream and her resignation from Oxfam ("Johansson-Oxfam rift puts spotlight on West Bank," Jan. 31). What the article fails to mention is that the SodaStream plant in Maaleh Adumim, one of three in Israel, employs 1,100 workers — mostly West Bank Palestinians. They are employed under the same conditions, salaries and benefits as Jewish workers, which is twice the average salary of Palestinians in other jobs. A fourth plant, in southern Israel, will hire mostly Bedouin Arabs, now suffering from high unemployment. A mosque was also built on site. So all the demonizing and boycotting of Israeli companies will mostly hurt Palestinian citizens.



Seems we're moving in the wrong direction

It was disappointing to hear that some states and individuals are considering even more barbaric forms of the death penalty, such as the gas chamber, electric chair and firing squad, in an effort to reduce violent crime ("States consider reviving old-fashioned executions," Jan. 29). It won't work. Back in the middle ages, people were executed publicly by hanging, beheading and burning at the stake, to name a few. It certainly didn't work then — it only provided crowds of people with their daily "entertainment." Anyone who doubts this need only go back to the Roman Empire, where the famed circuses offered up the slaughter of innocent human beings for the people's pleasure.

What we need to do is to focus instead on programs that instill respect for life, targeting groups such as the poor and disenfranchised with programs designed to help with job training, education and help with addiction, etc., to help in getting those in harm's way on a better path. It's simple: Negative actions lead to negative results; positive actions lead to positive results.