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Letters to the editor of the Boston Globe Magazine

Readers write in about the Halifax tree tradition, the future of autonomous vehicles, and an essay on living close to family.

IN TIMES OF NEED

I was so moved by James Sullivan’s story of Halifax, Nova Scotia, and the ongoing tradition of its annual Christmas tree gift to Boston (“From the Throes of War, a Gift of Peace,” December 3). The message is perfect for the holiday season and captures its real meaning across all faiths.

Fran Loftus / Canton

Originally from Halifax, my 1st grade teacher was a survivor of the explosion. She had a glass eye that scared us 6 year olds when she glared at us!

Boo1215

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My grandfather saw the blast from a distance. He was a quiet man so I didn’t hear about it from him, rather I heard years after he died from my dad. Wish I had heard the story from my grandfather. Grandparents  —  remember to share stories, even the painful ones!

woodz

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RED LIGHT, GREEN LINE

Before we give up on the MBTA in favor of autonomous vehicles as Tom Keane suggests (“Kill the Green Line Extension: The End of the T Is Near,” December 3), perhaps we should lift our foot off the accelerator for a moment and consider the accuracy of his vision of a future with driverless cars. If people summon them as needed, cars will need to travel from centralized parking facilities to riders’ homes and back when the ride is complete. This is likely to create more traffic, not less. Keane also claims that AVs will not need to park near stores, but simply drop passengers off and move on to the next customer. Will people who need to make a quick stop to drop off some dry cleaning or pick up a pizza enjoy waiting 15 minutes, or perhaps longer, for another car to pick them up?

Keane also conveniently avoids other potential downsides of AVs: their inability to function when snow, ice, or heavy rainfall obscures their cameras’ lenses, and the tendency of all things digital to malfunction from time to time. When a computer on board an AV crashes, the crash is not likely to be solely digital in nature.

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Robert Levy / Swampscott

“Made in Massachusetts” is a key reason to support AVs  —  much of the foundational work and engineering take place at local universities. Meanwhile, at least two home-grown companies, Optimus Ride and nuTonomy, are conducting pilot runs on Boston streets. Critics of Keane’s article will debate the minutiae, like the cost of public subsidies. A better question might be whether these same critics are still using a landline or have a preference for smartphones.

Jane Gould / Brookline

Autonomous vehicles will provide many benefits to travelers of the future, but they will not solve all of our transportation problems, and removing transit from the equation will make these much worse. Transportation planners know that a wide range of affordable, safe, reliable options — transit, walking, bicycling, ridesharing, and private vehicles — is the best way to provide maximum mobility and economic development. Cambridge, for example, has added thousands of jobs in the past two decades while removing some roadway capacity in favor of new bike facilities and wider sidewalks. Yet people are still able to get where they are going because trips are evenly distributed among the travel modes. Private vehicles take up a lot of road space per person. It takes a lot of time to squeeze all those cars through a small city intersection, which results in lengthy delays. Boston alone has over 830 traffic signals. AVs will move through intersections a little more efficiently, but not much. Erasing the T overnight will dump hundreds of thousands of people on our streets suddenly demanding vehicle trips without any new road space to accommodate them. It will not matter whether a texting teen or a robot is driving — there is only so much pavement to go around. We must not abandon our transit service while we wait for AVs to save us. They probably won’t, at least not in our densest neighborhoods, so we will always need other choices.

Jeffrey R. Parenti / Melrose

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Autonomous vehicles will complement the T, not kill it. There are several errors in Keane’s argument, mostly having to do with peak demand for transit and positive and negative economies of scale. Autonomous vehicles will not solve the problem of rush hour; instead, they would make rush hour an overwhelming disaster because they will put more machinery on the roads at peak times. Taxis, whether autonomous or not, are one essential part of an urban transit system. But in my opinion they will never replace the bulk transport provided by buses and trains.

Bill Torcaso / Cambridge

AVs will be sharing the road with standard automobiles. So close, controlled lines of cars will not be possible. I use a small pickup truck with ladder racks to do my work. I also store tools in the truck. I would not be able to use the AVs on demand any more than I can use public tranport now.

Deborah Hesson / Lynn

Hallelujah! Tom Keane is right when he says “by 2030 . . . the MBTA will be going the way of the dodo.” Autonomous vehicles of various types and sizes will soon provide the lion’s share of personal transportation services  —  safely, economically, and efficiently. Why are we spending billions to expand the T when the private sector is keen to jump in with AV solutions? While it may be too late to stop the T extension, let’s at least end the conversation about billions more dollars for a rail link between North and South stations, a project that continues to be aggressively promoted by former governors Bill Weld and Michael Dukakis, and US Representative Seth Moulton. The same old-fashioned thinking is going on there.

Brett Randolph / Cambridge

The writer’s own arguments reveal the weakness of his position. First is his understanding of history. As the city became less rural and more congested, it was the development of the underground and elevated mass transit system that freed it from gridlock. Moreover, the thesis that roads will miraculously open up because there will no longer be on-street parking is a fallacy. The last time I checked, there are no parking lanes on the Mass. Pike or Route 1, 3, or 95. Finally, I am doubtful that the AV transportation system will be run cheaply for everyone out of the benevolent intentions of the industrial giants who will own it.

John Mahony

Roslindale

NEIGHBORLY LOVE

Please thank Bill Mitchell for his beautiful Connections piece (“Near and Dear,” December 3). I think he is living in a way that we are all meant to live  —  in close proximity to each other, helping one another in our everyday lives. He and his wife, daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren are all very lucky.

Lillian Little / Wakefield

CONTACT US Write to magazine@globe.com or The Globe Magazine/Comments, 1 Exchange Place, Suite 201, Boston, MA 02109-2132. Comments are subject to editing.