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letters1217

December 16, 2018

Profit vs. serviceRe: “For 55 years in city, streetcars ruled,” Tricentenniel page, Dec. 9:This article on the history of streetcars in San Antonio missed an opportunity for a civics lesson. Rather than a story of inevitable failure — “streetcars were not profitable” — there is the lesson about public goods.In every city, streetcars and subways were turned into public utilities. San Antonio’s electric streetcars ran until 1933, when the private company that ran them bought out its service contract with the city. The lines were losing money, true enough, but streetcars were not profitable in other cities and yet they survived as public companies.Streetcars were often built by real estate developers to get people from new residential areas to work and shopping in downtowns. But that purpose was hard to sustain: The public good of transit is in no one business’s interest to provide because travelers won’t all be its customers. And although new suburbanites began to buy cars, most people did not own cars and could not afford increasing fares to get to and from their jobs.In San Antonio, as in other cities, streetcars were bought up by the local electric company, which could sell electricity to run them. However, the San Antonio Gas and Electric Co. — renamed the San Antonio Public Service Co. — wanted to get out during the Great Depression. The city let it, and San Antonio gave up its electric streetcars.Ironically, the city took over the Public Service Co. in 1942, and it has remained a vital public resource ever since. Too bad about the streetcars, though.Stephen AmbergGo to MexicoSince Donald Trump promised the world that “Mexico will pay for the wall,” maybe he needs to take his golf clubs and fly down to Mexico City. While he is there he could visit the president of Mexico and arrange for him to shut down the government in Mexico since it is refusing to pay for his stupid wall.David J. Smith, BulverdeHe loves AmericaRe: “What will be said,” Your Turn, Dec. 9:Nancy Powlas wrote some nice things about George H.W. Bush and wondered what would be written about Donald J. Trump. How about brave, strong, dedicated, loves America, brilliant?Sometimes you need Mother Teresa and sometimes you need Dirty Harry.Hanibal Guerra

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