Monday, March 30, 2015

Voices from the Past Advocate for Mass Transit

Lady Liberty Quality of Life Brigade and Shining River Press
Sheilah Hill
1400 Old Bartow Eagle Lake Rd. #4110
Bartow, Florida 33830
(863) 904-7363; 409-7071

Voices from the Past Advocate for Mass Transit
Alabama--I'm in a hurry
I'm in a hurry to get things done
(oh,) I rush and rush until life's no fun
All I really gotta do is live and die
But, I'm in a hurry and I don't know why


            My grandfather was first to have a car in his community, a small town in Indiana—Francesville. It was an Essex.  Later he owned a Ford Motor Company dealership in a neighboring town—Monon.   In 2000, years after he was gone, I was walking alone over the fields of his beautiful Mill Farm where is a lake, a hill, a forest. It’s a sacred place where in days past the family reunion was held every 4th of July.   

Also, tragically, one 4th of July, in 1935, young Paulie, my mother’s handsome, charming gifted brother, crashed his airplane and was killed before them all, his girlfriend, Ruth, surviving.  He was only 21—my mother, 16. He had been so excited about his new plane, “Dad, you’ll see me flying in!”  He did fly in, but the next day, being a novice pilot, he shot up too quickly causing the plane to stall which meant the plane came straight down, nose first. It was a two-seater, Ruth in back of him.  He had shouted to her, “Jump! Jump, for your life!”  But she had said, “No, no, Darling, I’m staying with you!”    Inconsolable, it was many years before she finally married.   

In reverie, feeling especially near to my grandparents and those who had gone before, in my spirit these words unmistakably came to me:  

"Cars and trucks shall spiral down.  Railroads, mass transit, hiking and biking will spiral up and there will be quiet places in the midst of the city for horse and buggy."  

 I then drove into Monon just in time to see what appeared to be a truck and car parade going down the main street of little Monon--like I was being shown how out of balance things were.  Immediately after this experience on The Mill Farm, there was the Firestone Tire Recall. 

Back in the Bronx, where I lived at the time, I met an elderly gentlemen, David Ashley, whose expertise was public transportation—he could tell you the history and present mass transit in cities all over world—he loved trains.  He told of the superior mass transit of Spain and Switzerland—also of some of our American cities which have free mass transit: Chattanooga, Savanah, and Seattle.   “Cars and trucks have become weapons of mass destruction causing 1/10 of the population to use up 9/10 of the resources," he said.  The US ranks first in oil consumption at a rate of 20.7 million barrels a day. (Wikipedia) 

The car industry did spiral down.  I wish I could have been an advisor to the President, “Don’t bail out the car industry. Put the money into trains, buses and bike sharing.  Give the car employees train and bus jobs.”  I blame myself more than President Obama. I should have been more persistent and diligent in getting the message out.  Even now, there has been much recall in the car industry.  (Please see recall information below) 

In New York, I didn't need a car. On subway or bus you can read, sleep, visit or watch people.  Once a sign in one of the subways read:  One subway car keeps 125 cars off of the road. 

Here in Bartow the buses are infrequent during the week--no transportation on week-ends or evenings.  Cars are a big expense—people dependent upon the bus are greatly limited in job opportunities.  Polk County is said to be #7 out of the top 100 areas for poverty, partly due to lack of a good transit system. (Brookings Institute) More people with jobs will mean a stronger economy and more taxes collected.  I believe good public transit will actually lower crime—people will be less stressed out.   

On NPR, the Diane Rehm show, concerns were expressed about lenders too often giving car loans to those who are too poor to be reasonably expected to afford the payments.  They default on their loans and then have no way to get to work.

Elderly people, who don’t want to drive and really shouldn’t, feel they must if they want to get around. 

Too many cars on the road and the lack of public transportation bring stress to everyone. Get Used to Gridlock on I-75, Experts Say, (Lakeland Ledger, 8/29/2014). It’s bad for the environment and the air we breathe.

In Viewpoint, Polk County Democrat, January 24, I read, “Mass Transit is alive and well in Polk County.”  Really?  I’ve been in many cities and this is by far the worst.   

For example, wanting to attend a meeting in downtown Lake Wales at 12:00, I called MY RIDE County Wide Transit Plan, 855-POLKBUS (765-5287) to enquire about getting there – a 30 minute trip by car.  

   I was kept on hold for 8 minutes.  Finally, when someone answered, this was the route:  Be at the courthouse at 6:10 (This requires a 20 minute walk in the dark.).  Catch the 22XW to Winter Haven terminal.  Catch the 30 to Walmart, Eagle Ridge Mall in Lake Wales—a place I definitely do not want to go.   For downtown historic Lake Wales I will need to catch the 35 and it goes infrequently.  Let’s see, did I write down all the times the 35 leaves Eagle Ridge? Anyway, I can’t leave later than 6:10 or I won’t be able to make the connections to arrive at noon.   Now what about getting back to Bartow?  I was exhausted at the getting-there directions.  I felt I just couldn’t ask how to get back.  To go to an hour meeting would be an all day project.   

            Before this last election I advocated for Mass Transit.  Sometimes I wore my Lady Liberty crown.  (  I was stunned by much of the reception I received here in Bartow revealing a lack of vision and kindness:

            “I have a car.  I don’t need public transportation.”

            “I don’t want any more taxes.  Who’s going to pay for those buses?”

Do they realize how much the cars are subsidized? The roads?  In The Atlantic Monthly, January/ February 2015 Buses are for Other People, “Driving charges might be more compelling if we considered the full economic impact of auto dependence.  The secondary costs—from lost productivity to road accidents, to pollution. . .estimates are staggering. One scholar has put the total social cost of motor-vehicle use at as much as $3.3 trillion a year.” 

When I wait with my bike on the corner of Wilson and Van Fleet and observe the noise and rush of all the trucks and cars whizzing by, I want to ask, “Where is everyone going in such a hurry?”  And if someone doesn’t move on the very second the light turns green, a horn will likely honk.

Contemplate all that is sacrificed for these cars—our pristine forests, wildlife and more and more of the earth is covered with concrete. 

Alabama--I'm in a hurry
I'm in a hurry to get things done
(Oh,) I rush and rush until life's no fun
All I really gotta do is live and die
But, I'm in a hurry and I don't know why 

Rebel.  Get off of the merry-go-round and out of the “the rat race.”  Take a walk in nature. Amble down a lane led on by surprises. Ride a bike and discover a new path--so many beautiful places here in Florida.  Sit on a bench with a cup of coffee or tea, peanut butter balls* and your journal writing down thoughts that come on the wing. Hear the angels among the whisper of the trees.  Maybe your mother is trying to get through to you.  “Wherefore we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses.”  (Hebrews 12:1) Listen to a bird call.  Ride a bus with a book.  Notice who’s sitting next to you.

 I pray eyes be opened and perceptions enlarged to the importance of good public transit for all of us. As has been said, “What affects one segment of the population affects us all.” When we come to solutions, they are best for everyone concerned.  Mass transit benefits everyone. We may differ as to how the buses are paid for, but it should be a given—we must have mass transit. 

A friend, Doug, who has had a near death experience, told me some years ago, “If you go too fast, you’ll age.” Actually, the faster you go, the less time you have.  So consider: go slower—don’t always rush about in cars.  I challenge you—fast your car for a week.  Ride the bus, bike, catch a ride with someone else, borrow a car, or what about possibly walking? You’ll meet people, have adventures and may be surprised by some divine appointments.

*peanut butter balls—these can satisfy your sweet tooth without being so bad for you.

Mix these 5 ingredients together: Peanut butter (I use almond butter—it’s better for you), dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, apricots, or cherries), nuts (I prefer walnuts); maple syrup (the good kind) and dry milk (I prefer Alba—it’s from cows not treated with rBST) Roll in balls and put in refrigerator.



  I’m a story teller.  I feel I must add this funny story--I think I need to give a little background.  Sometimes one has to tell 13 stories to get to the one story!   

My grandparents came over from Austria/Hungary in 1904.  Things were well for them, but they belonged to a church that didn’t believe in war.  My great grandparents had only one daughter, Angela, but 7 sons and they didn’t want to give their sons for Europe’s wars. They felt led of God to come to America. Since they obeyed early, they did not come as refugees but brought their fine furniture, chandeliers, etc. on the boat.

 Later during World War I and World War II family and friends lost their sons and their land.  My grandparents were often sponsoring people coming from the Old Country, which today is no longer Austria/Hungary, but Serbia.  Their town, Cvenenka, is 100 miles from Belgrade.  

 The church also had quaint customs, some similar to the Mennonites and Amish.   

My grandfather, one of the ministers, was progressive for his church and time.  For example, he had a radio, which he covered with a cloth so as “to not offend the brethren.”   

One day an elder of the church was coming to visit by train.  This elder had a conviction against cars.  Since he was not met with horse and buggy as he expected, but my grandfather with his car, he was in a quandary.  What was he supposed to do?  He certainly had to be true to the belief he felt God had given him. He elected to ride with one foot outside the car. 

Passed down through the generations, my mother told this funny story with a laugh.  But now I’m thinking, “Maybe that elder had something and we shouldn’t laugh so much at him. Sometimes people have to be extreme on the other side to pull society over to the middle and more balance.”   

As I am looking up this recall information, I am understanding more clearly the message I received on the Mill Farm.  Since my grandfather was so responsible for getting cars on the road, could it be that he now wants to be helpful to see what can be done to get things more in balance? 

My grandparents were wonderful people—hardworking, generous and thrifty—as opposed to some who are lazy, selfish and wasteful.

He also had an International Harvester dealership in Francesville.  If people didn’t pay their bills, he did nothing about it—especially during the depression.  He was always there to help people.  Likewise my grandmother’s hands—gardening, freezing, canning and then giving out the Mason Jars—I remember especially plums.  If there was any disagreement or bad feeling between any of us, she would touch one’s arm and say, “You go now and make peace.” 

Look at these recalls:

5 OF THE BIGGEST CAR RECALLS  EVER: --below copied from website. 

(1)   The Chrysler Group’s recall of 13,000 Dodge Chargers and Chrysler 300s due to anti-lock brake problems. Through the years they have let devastating design flaws slip through the cracks in the production line resulting in more than a million models recalled.

(2)   Toyota’s Out-of-Control Gas Pedals, 2009 and 2010—Size of recall 9 million vehicles.

(3)   Ford’s Failure to Park Recall.  21 million vehicles affected.  All vehicles between 1976-1980.In the largest auto recall to date, Ford was forced to repair 20 million vehicles after a safety defect in their transmission system caused more than 6,000 accidents. 1,700 injuries and 98 deaths.  Cost to Ford $1.7 billion

(4)   The Tahata Seatbelt Scandal, 1995

8.3 million vehicles—Numerous models affected—Honda, Nissan, Chrysler, Mitsubishi, GM, Mazon, Suzuki, Subar, and Isuzu.  Between 1986-1995. The belts were prone to crash and jam, trapping the driver and passenger in their seats.  Replacement 8 million—estimated cost $1 billion

(5) Fire Strikes Ford Vehicles

            Size of recall: 14 million vehicles—1996. 

Models affected:  Numerous Ford models, including The Explorer, Bronco, F-Series, Trucks and Lincoln Town Cars

 What Happened? Just months after a faulty ignition scandal rocked the company, the Michigan automaker was forced to recall a massive 14 million vehicles after it was revealed that a small electronic switch used to deactivate the cruise control function when the brake was applied could overheat and start a fire. At the cost of $20 a switch, the fix is estimated to have cost the company around $280 million.

(6)Ford Ignition Problem, 1996

Size of Recall: 8.7 million vehicles
Models Affected: 1988-1993 models of Ford Aerostar, Bronco, Crown Victoria, Mustang, Escort, Tempo and F-Series Trucks; Mercury Cougar, Grand Marquis and Topaz and Lincoln Town Car.
What Happened? During the late '80s, the auto giant installed ignition switches in its vehicles that were prone to short circuit, leading to overheating, smoking and occasionally full-blown fires within the steering column. Sometimes the switches even ignited when the car was parked and turned off. Luckily, Ford managed to recall the flaming igniters before any injuries were reported. After all was said and done, the incendiary mistake cost the company around $200 million.


Though these might be some of the most expensive recalls to ever strike America's auto industry, they certainly aren't the last. Every day, government regulators and victimized consumers continue to uncover widespread oversights in auto-makers' manufacturing process, forcing the industry to undergo ever-more recalls and "Safety Management Campaigns." So drive safely out there, because you never know which vehicle will be the next to be dubbed America's most dangerous.


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