Friday, January 22, 2010

Infrastructure of the United States

We have outgrown our roads. Anyone who travels will know this to be true. You might cruise along for a while but when you get within a hundred miles of one of the major cities, you are in for a stressful trip. It shows up in the way people drive. It shows up in wear and tear on vehicles and fuel consumption. It shows up in time lost. Time equals production in our economy. You cannot just count road time. You have to count recovery time for those who get to work and must come down from the trip.

Our present highway system was a great idea and has served us well. We need a new great idea to take us beyond this point. If the world stands, the population will only increase. For our country, it means everyone who can scrap together some cash or credit will want a car when they get old enough to work a few days a week. Something has to be done but it must be done with freedom in mind. You cannot just wait until there is a national bottleneck and a national emergency to start thinking about it.

There must be some ways the traffic on our highways can be diminished without telling people what to do with their lives.

I think Disney World can offer one suggestion. The train they have going around the park would make a great way to travel between major cities. Locally, they talk about a train between Chattanooga and Atlanta but this talk only peaks when gas prices go up. Then, it dies down again. We actually need a nice train from Chattanooga all the way to the coast of Georgia, then south to Florida's major cities. Since tax from gas is a major source of revenue for the state, they will have to change their mindset for this to happen. Such a system would benefit everyone if carried out properly. You'd want a paying system set up that would be not so costly to build. That leg would support future building. The way to do that would be to build a leg to the beach where everyone would like to go once in a while if they could afford it.

Washington and the Baltimore area desperately need a system to carry their local traffic around the area.

Another way to cut down on the mess would be for businesses to put forth a dedicated effort to let people work closer to their home. For example, people with identical jobs could swap jobs on a voluntary basis. The incentive would be the savings in transportation. Business travel could be traded for teleconferences. It would cut down on travel expenses, airport congestion and those late night bar room deals where customers prefer entertainment to quality service.

We need a long range vision but a short range goal. Do what we can afford. Pick out two cities and build a nice transient system. Use it for a model to encourage others and to work out the bugs.

I hate to say it, since I love the sound of a good engine when it accelerates, but for the future, cars should be a diminishing thing, the railroad should be used more instead of so many long haul trucks. It will require a complete change in the mindset of America. It will require a vision. It will require a willingness to turn lose of a fun time and plan for a better day.

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