SIMON CALDER

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The Independent Travel
The mystery of the airport bus that barks has been solved. To recap, people arriving at San Francisco's international airport who intend to catch the bus into the city are in for a shock. Not only will anyone with luggage be refused carriage, but the refusal will be broadcast through loudspeakers mounted on the bus. "No bags," they bark as the bus driver approaches and sees the offending luggage.

Crispin Hetherington from Cambridge lived for three and a half years in the Bay Area, and offers an explanation in five easy stages:

"1. SamTrans, the bus operator, is heavily subsidised by local taxpayers. They are willing to subsidise local residents but not visiting tourists. The no-bag rule is one way to enforce this divide.

"2. The bus is mainly intended for workers, and if bags were admitted it would not be very express.

"3. Actually, you can catch a SamTrans bus with baggage - number 7B. It goes through lots of suburbs and takes twice as long as the express.

"4. However, I suspect the real players in this are the airport commissioners. They charge hefty fees for taxis, limos and private shuttle buses to stop at the airport, and get revenue from car-parking.

"5. Good news on the horizon: within the last year, the city has decided to extend its underground railway, Bart, to the airport. So in a decade or so, when it finally gets built, you will be able to save on your pounds 18 cab fare!"

A recent story about one of America's less-celebrated tourist destinations brought a strong reaction from locals and visitors. One writes: "In your review of the opening of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (26 August), you took the easy way out and slammed the city of Cleveland. As a former resident, I can assure you Cleveland is not only a great place to live and work, but it is also not bad for a visit.

"You omitted the Flats, a thriving bar and restaurant quarter nestled in an old industrial area of the river. A good example of modern rejuvenation, and generally full of people. A little further west is the Ohio City area, with more bars and restaurants. East beyond University Circle is Little Italy, with a number of excellent restaurants. And that's not to mention the fine ethnic restaurants, a legacy of Cleveland's immigration heritage.

"You deride the city's growing medical industry, yet you could have congratulated it for finding a meaningful replacement for the heavy industry that has died. Would you prefer that the city kept its smog-inducing steel mills busy?"

And CN Rackley writes from Burgess Hill, West Sussex: "Your article misrepresented a fine town. Last year we spent a very good holiday in Cleveland. We had good bathing at Lake Erie, and really enjoyed the party life at Put-In- Bay, one of the Lake Erie islands. We also went to Cedar Point at Sandusky, regarded as the best amusement park in the States. We don't all want the Disney experience."

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