Metrification: Yes ... No!

The following are excerpts from member letters on the subject of switching from English units of measurement to Metric units of measurement.

Who told your Rhode Island coordinator that "the metric system is THE system of science and engineering"? There's nothing in this system that isn't completely duplicated in the English system of units. Metrification is just another way for bureaucrats to promote their empty briefcase jobs, making a pointless change from one system that works fine to another system.

The fact is, engineers don't care for metric units because the decimal point slips too easily, and it's hard to catch. I have found errors in the metric tables, due to mistakes made in converting from English to metric units.

Gerard A. Blahut
Bethlehem, PA

I believe there is one important lesson that the U.S. can learn from the Canadian experience and that is to adopt the metric system in all aspects of life, particularly transportation. I would like to see the NMA support the use of the metric system on our roadways for several reasons.

First of all, most of the world uses this system.

Secondly, the system is easy to use. There are 10,000 centimetres in a kilometre. How many people can readily tell you how many inches there are in a mile? One litre of water weighs one kilogram. How much does a gallon of water weigh? The strength of the metric system is in its simplicity.

If the NMA can sell the metric system to legislators, the aesthetics of the numbers may lead to higher speed limits. Consider a system where the urban speed limit is 100 km/h instead of 55 mph, and the rural limit is 125 km/h (78 mph) instead of 65. ~What you get is higher speed limits with nice, even sounding numbers.

Michael Dolenga
Edison, NJ

The present condition of the economies of Great Britain and Canada, which officially converted several decades ago, should be sufficient warning to the United States to have nothing to do with metric conversion, and, in fact, undo what we have already done. I said when metric conversion became an issue twenty years ago, that it could only mean job loss, loss of markets, and general economic dislocation. Looks like I was right?

The U.S. Department of Transportation now plans to switch every highway speed and distance sign in the U.S. to read in metric units sometime in 1996, and set the individual states up to take the heat for it. and, judging by the reaction so far, there will be plenty of heat. Will it make the roads any safer or smoother? Will it relieve traffic congestion? Will the Highway Trust Fund be in such good shape in 1995 that we can replace just about every highway sign in the U.S. without neglecting other Highway Fund priorities? I leave the readers of this letter to answer that.

Theodore L. Cover, P.E.
St. Louis, MO

I read your "Metric and the Motorist" article in the Sept./Oct. issue and was extremely pleased to see that you recognize the metric system as the language of science and engineering. The most successful metric conversion programs were those where change was treated as a golden opportunity to set up a rational system of sizes to minimize inventory and designs. A case in point was the reduction from the fifty three former ounce-based sizes to seven rational metric sizes of distilled spirits. Another successful conversion was ISO metric fasteners.

As you suggest, the optimum conversion program for speed limits would be a "clean sheet" approach to rational speed limits based on engineering standards and improved traffic flow. The worst approach would be to just take the present bizarre scheme (?) and mathematically convert to the corresponding km/h limits. Rational speed limits won't happen unless people with vision press the issue.

A minor comment about the article is that the symbol for kilometres per hour is km/h not kph. My understanding of why the liter/100 km consumption rate is used in Europe is that it is easier to estimate how much gas to purchase mentally. Unless there is a strong reason to do otherwise, we should use the same fuel consumption system (liter/100 km) as Europe.

I suggest you convey your opinions about metric conversion and rational speed limits to the Department of Transporation. They will have notices in the Federal Register and will request comments from the public. Anyone with suggestions on rational metric limits can write to:
Mr. Donald J. Igo, Metric Coordinator, U.S. Department of Transporation, 400 Seventh Street, S.W., Washington DC 20590

Larry Stempnik
Warren, Mi

I do not believe that this country has to get "internationalized" by any "New World Order" or abide by any "international" standards, which includes the so much "propagandized" Metrification.

The metric system, as convenient as it may be, is not the system of science and engineering. We have been producing pretty good engineering in this Country with the English system, without any "help" from the Bureaucrats from Brussels!!

I do very much agree with Mr. Thomas A. Frank about the danger of getting a rollback in speed limits due to the "big" numbers of the metric system.

Mr. Frank is absolutely right in respect to the "fuel consumption" figures. The European way is silly and does not make much sense; our way (miles/gallon) is logical and should be retained.

Alvaro C. Melon Tampa, FL

Source: January/February 1993

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