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Journey 21 - TRAFFIC GRIDLOCK, a suggestion on how to solve it.
Journey 21 - TRAFFIC GRIDLOCK, a suggestion on how to solve it.

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Published by: Christopher C. Humphrey, Ph. D. on Dec 01, 2006
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Journey 21 - TRAFFIC GRIDLOCK By “gridlock”, I mean the traffic jams that bring freeways to a complete stop during rush hours andI mean the congested stop and go traffic on city streets the rest of the time. The solution is not to build more freeways. Los Angeles is proof of that. We know the solution. The next time you are brought to a complete stop on the freeways, for no apparent reason, imagine all these cars (and your own) magically replaced by bicycles. No more gridlock! All of you would be able to continue onyour way at speeds of 20 to 35 miles per hour. The average speed of rush hour traffic in manycities is only about 5 miles per hour. That is about the same as a fast walk.This idea comes under the aegis of Thomas Jefferson’s magnificent formulation of the ideal of liberty that insists upon life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Riding a bike would certainlyimprove your health, and it would give you the liberty to go anyplace in the Metropolis inaccordance with your own pursuit of happiness. If you must have a car, keep it out of theMetropolis and drive it on weekends.At rush hour, we have a large number of people who wish to go at a certain hour from their suburbto many destinations within the metropolis. Is there any kind of mass transit that can handle that?There is, and it imitates some characteristics of private cars. The only thing that can carry anunlimited number of people at time T from A to B is a special sort of train, where each car has itsown power pickups to overhead electrical lines, its own motors, and its own automated controls. Icall this the rubber-tired Freeway bus/train, since the individual cars (or a small number connected)can act like a bus, while connecting them all together produces a train. The reason such a train canhandle an unlimited number N at time T is that we can always add more cars to the very same trainthat pulls out of the station at time T no matter how many cars make up the train, whether many or few.Making the destinations of those individual cars different requires a little subtlety, and this train isnot like most trains. In this mass transit system, there is no central train station, no central hubwhere all cars of the train wind up. Let us think about Los Angeles as a model, and imagine a train that starts out just beyond theextreme eastern edge of the Metropolis, perhaps at San Bernadino. It starts out small, but at eachstop as it approaches the center of the Metropolis, some small pieces of train attach on to it. Ateach stop, people get on and off. At each intersection with a major highway or freeway, some people will ride up or down a spiral ramp and change to a different freeway train, ones that mayhave started in Pasadena or Whittier or Long Beach or somewhere down in Orange County. Onceon the train, riders will be moving forward or backward to get on the right car, for eventually eachcar or group of cars will break off, take an off-ramp to a street and become a bus, traveling all dayand all night up and down that street, until those times when buses coalesce again into morning or evening freeway trains headed to or from one or another of the farthest suburbs. There may beseveral morning and evening commuter trains starting or arriving at different times.To become a freeway rider, one must get on the Web site for that purpose and enter starting pointand ending point as well as the time one needs to be at a terminus, both for the morning and theevening rush. After everyone has done this, the computer will figure it all out and issue instructions1
to each rider. Each rider will then know where to get on, which train to take, where to get off it,where to transfer to a different freeway train (which must synchronize their arrivals at major freeway intersections) and finally the car number to get on. There will not be train/buses on everystreet, just the large ones, so the passenger will walk or ride a bike a few blocks or a few miles, oneither end of the trip. Travelers to the Metropolis will do the same thing, and will have an instant“ticket” explaining which trains to take and which cars on those trains.We will have a traffic mix of freeway trains and buses confined to certain lanes of freeways andstreets. Bicyclists should stay out of those lanes. We can identify them because they have electricwires strung overhead. In order for this traffic mix to be safe and predictable, we must eliminate allcars, trucks, and diesel buses, including all taxis. It is impossible to imagine a safe environment for large numbers of bicycles and rickshaws on Manhattan streets as long as those fleets of yellow cabsstill exist.There is one other type of vehicle we must allow, and that is the electric delivery van, with a driver that can ride in the bus lane and pick up electricity from the overhead wires, or it can run at about20 mph on batteries alone. It would be unsafe to the bicycles if it went any faster. There must be parking places reserved for delivery vans, out of the way of the train/buses.So how do you get your groceries home? Have them delivered! Same thing with furniture,appliances or any large load that would not fit in a backpack. The delivery trucks can also call onyour place to make a pickup, of furniture or appliances, or a load of crushed and compactedaluminum cans, a box of hazardous materials, or anything that will not burn in the environmentallyfriendly incinerator. Everyone will have garbage disposals. There will be composters andincinerators in every neighborhood. A pipe to a central plant will suck exhaust from incineratorsfor further processing.A city that runs on electricity and human muscle power has the potential to be solar powered. Sucha city will be smog free and residents will lose their load of fat. People who love their cars can stillhave them, just not in a Metropolis. I expect that a good business in San Bernadino would begaraging private cars, ATVs, trucks, and any other internal combustion vehicle. Electriclocomotives in the Metropolis will pull trains, and long haul truckers will have to transfer their loads to or from such trains. That would be another good business in San Bernadino. In the past, I have argued for a solar-hydrogen economy. I no longer consider that feasible.Hydrogen functions primarily as a means of storing energy. However, it is devilishly difficult touse, requiring high pressure and extremely low temperatures to liquefy. Natural gas can be liquid atnormal outside temperatures, so that is an improvement. LNG still requires a strong steel container,since LNG is liquid only at high pressure. The best solution might be methanol. It is liquid atnormal pressures and temperatures and it we can make it from coal, trees, brush, weedy fastgrowing trees, chicken waste, pig waste, cow waste, horse waste, even human waste. Cars couldrun on methanol. Maybe airplanes could run on methanol. Burning it does release some carboninto the atmosphere, but a methanol economy would release only about one percent as much carbonas petroleum or coal, particularly if we greatly increase the efficiency of our engines, houses and public buildings.2

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