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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Dear Mr. President...(yet again)


Sundar Narayanan
Just another dude


The Honorable Barak Obama
United States of America

Subject : Following up on my earlier letter about : Simple requests to do things that meet green standards, improve quality of life and make Americans happy

Dearest Sir,

This is my second letter to you, and yes, hopes are still high that you will bring about the much needed changes that the world and its people require.

To remind you, my previous letter was about:

a. phone chargers
b. bio-degradable diapers
c. Public transportation and
d. promoting healthy food

a. On the phone charger front, I am happy to say that the new iPhone 3GS, hooks up to my laptop with a USB interface and charges. As a techno-nerd-geek-whatever, I cannot be satisfied if only end of a cable finds common ground. We have to make BOTH ends meet!

I now have different chargers which are all USB on one side and still different on the other side.. (did borrow an iPod connector that does not belong to me to make the point here). Please see for yourself!

You see Mr. President, we need to make both ends of the USB cable thingys to be the same for all devices. The amount of money that goes into making different cables, and how eventually all these are going to end up in a landfill, not to mention the impact to the earth on making all those chips that go into these cables, the wires, the plastic, etc. etc. is pure waste. Keep pushing for the univercable! Please....

b. My daughters don't need diapers or pull ups anymore. However, there has been a significant increase in the number of babies in the families we know. So, please do find some money in your green initiative to distribute to the bio-diaper development folks. Last week we went to see a friend's newborn at the same hospital where the Little one was born and it looks like they have switched to cloth nappies and cloth covers for the baby cribs instead of the blue plastic lined disposable mats. People are taking this seriously, or so it seems!

d. As for healthy food, looks like the schools are still peddling pizza and grease for lunches. We do not know about the schools your kids are going to attend. Do go see what they get for lunch and you will know what I am talking about(maybe!)

c. The main reason for this letter is Public Transportation, and why item (c) came last. Recently my FIL came to visit us and he asked a few questions which left me groping for answers. This was his second visit to the USA. His earlier visit three years ago was a 20 day sightseeing trip and he was constantly on the move all across America. This time he wanted to spend time with us at home and see what our daily life was like. Verbatim, his questions were:

1. How can the richest country in the world have such poor transportation.

2. How come this country is so insensitive to the needs of the elderly and children? They cannot move around freely because there is no public transport and are dependent on the middle aged people to help them get around places?

3. How can a country be free of oil dependence if everyone has to use a car to go everywhere?

Very valid questions. To top things off some dude was talking on NPR about a book he wrote called 20 dollar gallon, or something like that. He said that highways in the US will close down, Walmart will go out of business, etc. etc. and people will just stop driving when gas price goes above 12 dollars a gallon.

Why? Why should highways close down? why cannot everyone share a bus and wont the buses use the existing highway system? In countries that could not afford fuel or make cheap affordable automobiles (India in the eighties for example), people used the public transportation system very effectively be it the cities or suburbs. When more people started getting money in their pockets, and cheaper cars were available, even those same cities started having issues with people treating public transport as a backup or inferior mode of transportation.

It will only be a matter of time before every Indian middle class household has two cars and Americans adopt public transport. It is almost becoming a role reversal. How India will provide the petrol for all those cars is a different question. Some dude in India / China is probably writing to their president right about now..

Seriously Mr. President, why not jump start public transportation in the USA? It will get rid of oil dependence. Put a system together, make it dirt cheap or free for the first year or two and let people see how it improves their life. The green impact alone will pay for it. Every day I see this bus standing at various signals near my workplace. It is called IT (intelligent transport ?) and is supposedly a "green bus". The bus looks like it can hold 40-50 passengers and there is usually one dude on the bus!!!!!! Where is the intelligence there?

You have to aggressively promote public transport. You have to make that network very very efficient. You have to sell it as a worthy alternative to cheap gas and inefficient cars on an overcrowded highway system!

That way my kids and older relatives who visit can move around as freely as I would (assuming that I will be using that same public transportation) and we won't care if the gas price goes to 20 dollars a gallon.

That might be the way to getting to your green goals, oil independence and improve the health of the Americans who use this system (when they walk the extra few yards to and from the bus stops!). Who knows, that might even lower the cost of healthcare!

yours truly

A slightly happier dude who is still waiting for an improved public transport system.

ps. In the first 16 years of my life, there was no cars. Only two feet, a bicycle and PTC (Pallavan Transport Corporation) buses. Life was good, when seen from a transportation stand point.

pps. If people can get used to decimated 401k's, pay cuts, increased cost of health insurance, worsening quality of healthcare, dropping house prices, increasing cost of living and more taxes, they can easily get used to public transportation. Please take my word for it.


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I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 2:40 AM, Blogger swatantra wrote...

Very well written thoughts!!

I hope it reaches to the right place. Good luck!


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