Dr. Schneider and his cure for road rage?
The paint-ball initiative

Thursday, November 19, 1998

Something needs to be done before I hurt somebody.

Really, I was determined to be a good sport about this Fort Washington Way construction and the orange-barrel polka we all dance no matter what thoroughfare we choose. I am pathologically, congenitally cheerful. But the other day, I said the F-word.

In front of my mother.

The paint-ball initiative

I was trying to get downtown from the east side during rush hour. Mom was holding onto the door handle. I think she thought I might ram the BMW that kept lane-hopping trying for a one-car, 50-second advantage. Actually, I was considering throwing the car into reverse and ramming the guy behind me who kept honking.

Then I got downtown and had to crawl through it. Instead of arresting jaywalkers, the police should deputize all pedestrians. They should be issued paint-ball guns. Every time they see somebody sneak through a red light, they should plug 'em. If drivers ignore cross walks, ditto. Cars should be shot twice if they block an intersection.

Then, when their car starts looking like a Jackson Pollock mural, they should be hauled off to jail.

Maybe it would save some lives. Or at least spare us some broken bones. Or vile language.

Trains for somebody else

In 1996, 1995 and 1994 - the latest years for which statistics are available - Cincinnati led the state in car wrecks, according to the Ohio Department of Public Safety. Nobody has figured out exactly why this is, but experts have guessed that it might be because of our hills and river. In other words, our interesting terrain.

So we're not laid out in a boring grid. But we still have to get to work.

Cincinnati Councilman Todd Portune has proposed a rail line west to boost the development that seems imminent in western Hamilton County. As people are moving there, they could begin the habit of riding the train.

He met with Lawrenceburg's City Council on Monday night, and they voted unanimous support for the project. "But no money," Mr. Portune says.

When I told my husband I thought the Portune plan sounded interesting, he wondered whether it's because I thought everybody else would ride those diesel trains, leaving me and my car in lonely splendor. Of course it is.

"People farther out are more dependent on the car," says John Schneider, chairman of Downtown Cincinnati Inc.'s transportation committee. "If you create transit closer in, you free up highways for motorists from farther out."

But there aren't a whole lot of people along Mr. Portune's proposed line. The people are east of the city.

Mr. Schneider has proposed a tunnel that would link downtown with the University of Cincinnati, making a light-rail system called the Spine Line able to move people quietly and frequently from downtown to the University of Cincinnati, Xavier University, the zoo, Hyde Park, Mariemont, Terrace Park and Blue Ash. You are talking some serious people moving.

He says the average commute time in Greater Cincinnati in 1970 was 15 minutes. In 1980, it was 18 minutes. In 1990, it was 25 minutes. The average commute time for the Pulfers was 8 minutes in fall 1997. In fall 1998, it is 20 minutes.

Metro bus ridership is up 6.5 percent this year. I'll bet the orange barrels are the best marketing tool Metro has. Well, that and the road hogs and nosepickers who make climbing aboard public transportation increasingly attractive.

"I lead such a rich life," John Schneider says, "because I have made a car such a small part of it."

Plus he says he can get to work without wanting to hurt anybody.

Laura Pulfer's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. E-mail her at laurapulfer@enquirer.com, call 768-8393, or fax 768-8340. She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU radio (91.7 FM) and on National Public Radio's Morning Edition. Her new book, I Beg to Differ, a collection of columns and commentaries, is available at (800) 852-9332.