Budget Director David A. Stockman's statements, reported in the article (April 16), "Stockman Calls L.A. Metro Rail 'Foolish' Waste," are political and reflect ignorance of American (and Los Angeles) urban problems.
Stockman has not raised his voice in opposition to New York's Westway project or to the Century Freeway in Los Angeles. These cost far more than the $180 million per mile he finds so disturbing. And they will serve fewer travelers and at much higher operating costs.
His comments are based on studies that purport to show that transit service is costlier than automobile travel. But these studies do not include the very real and substantial "hidden" costs of automobile use in cities. Automobile costs are as much as four times that of similar transit travel when these are included.
The nation is absurdly dependent on automobiles. We own more cars and trucks; our cars are more expensive, and we drive more than any other people on the planet. The costs to the economy are staggering; and a significant determinant in the competition for markets--the Japanese and the Germans are less handicapped.
This dependency is not heaven-sent, nor is it due to an unusual affection for the automobile. It derives from taxation and other policies that make the auto irresistible--on economic grounds. Policies can be changed. These must be changed if we are to survive in a world marketplace.