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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 and
I 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 on
your way at speeds of 20 to 35 miles per hour. The average speed of rush hour traffic in many
cities 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 certainly
improve your health, and it would give you the liberty to go anyplace in the Metropolis in
accordance with your own pursuit of happiness. If you must have a car, keep it out of the
Metropolis 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 suburb
to 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 an
unlimited number of people at time T from A to B is a special sort of train, where each car has its
own power pickups to overhead electrical lines, its own motors, and its own automated controls. I
call 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 can
handle an unlimited number N at time T is that we can always add more cars to the very same train
that 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 is
not like most trains. In this mass transit system, there is no central train station, no central hub
where 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 the
extreme eastern edge of the Metropolis, perhaps at San Bernadino. It starts out small, but at each
stop as it approaches the center of the Metropolis, some small pieces of train attach on to it. At
each 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 may
have started in Pasadena or Whittier or Long Beach or somewhere down in Orange County. Once
on the train, riders will be moving forward or backward to get on the right car, for eventually each
car or group of cars will break off, take an off-ramp to a street and become a bus, traveling all day
and 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 be
several 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 point
and ending point as well as the time one needs to be at a terminus, both for the morning and the
evening rush. After everyone has done this, the computer will figure it all out and issue instructions

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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 every
street, just the large ones, so the passenger will walk or ride a bike a few blocks or a few miles, on
either 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 and
streets. Bicyclists should stay out of those lanes. We can identify them because they have electric
wires strung overhead. In order for this traffic mix to be safe and predictable, we must eliminate all
cars, 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 cabs
still 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 about
20 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 on
your place to make a pickup, of furniture or appliances, or a load of crushed and compacted
aluminum cans, a box of hazardous materials, or anything that will not burn in the environmentally
friendly incinerator. Everyone will have garbage disposals. There will be composters and
incinerators in every neighborhood. A pipe to a central plant will suck exhaust from incinerators
for further processing.

A city that runs on electricity and human muscle power has the potential to be solar powered. Such
a city will be smog free and residents will lose their load of fat. People who love their cars can still
have them, just not in a Metropolis. I expect that a good business in San Bernadino would be
garaging private cars, ATVs, trucks, and any other internal combustion vehicle. Electric
locomotives 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 to
use, requiring high pressure and extremely low temperatures to liquefy. Natural gas can be liquid at
normal 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 at
normal pressures and temperatures and it we can make it from coal, trees, brush, weedy fast
growing trees, chicken waste, pig waste, cow waste, horse waste, even human waste. Cars could
run on methanol. Maybe airplanes could run on methanol. Burning it does release some carbon
into the atmosphere, but a methanol economy would release only about one percent as much carbon
as petroleum or coal, particularly if we greatly increase the efficiency of our engines, houses and
public buildings.

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Did you know that the mercury that accumulates in Swordfish and Tuna comes out the smokestacks
of coal fired plants? It is true. Sulfur compounds and fine particulates also come out, producing a
fine haze high in the atmosphere, dimming the night-time sky. Give us back the night! So, instead
of burning coal, we convert it to methanol, leaving behind the mercury, sulfides and ash, and burn
methanol in what used to be coal fired plants.

This concludes my brief utopia. The important thing in the science of civilization, also known as
utopian analysis, is the scientific proof of the major social ideals. It is equally important to
recognize violations of those ideals, such as the military draft, or the war-on-drugs. It is also useful
to design specific solutions to specific problems that fit the technology and situation of the times
one lives in, solutions compatible with the great ideals of the Founding Fathers of the
Enlightenment. I believe the seven ideals used here are true for all times and places. In my utopia,
the seven ideals are the totality of the permanent law, and the constitution is a brief paragraph
explaining the functions of magistrates, metropoles, governors, and archons.

Any member of the Aristarchy should be able to make a ruling on a particular case, based on the
seven ideals. That ruling only applies in his or her domain. Rulings from far and wide will be
collected and distributed throughout the Aristarchy and to the public. I expect these rulings to
constantly change, and to be different in one place than another. It is not the letter of the law that is
important, but its embodiment of the seven ideals. As language changes, so must the rulings
change to keep up.

The Aristarchy combines all functions of government into one. There will only be one type of law,
which applies to everyone. There will be no torts, no juvenile courts, no specialized courts of any
kind.