Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Transportation: Hubs and Hubris

In our obsession with fighting wars in places that don’t want us,

We’ve lost sight of so many important priorities, that occasionally it would do us some good to review where we stand.

Take transportation.

We are undergoing some of the dark days of transportation right now.

Carbon based fuel has tripled in the few years since Bush took over as president.

The airlines, as a result, are bleeding in every possible way.

In this year alone, several airlines have filed for protection under bankruptcy or simply closed their doors.

Despite the fact that there’s less competition, airline service seems to get immeasurably worse with each passing day.

How come?

Much of it has to do with how airlines are organized.

Many set up around a hub.

Add to that fact, that there are only so many airports that can accommodate a standard airliner; very few a 747.

So, when weather or other problems cause a clog somewhere in the pipeline, every other airline becomes backed up.

What can be done about it.

Some suggest that the solution is GPS systems which the airlines currently don’t have; the GPS would provide a precise position in space offering the pilots and schedulers greater latitude in scheduling landings and take-offs.

The other avenue might be fewer competitive flights into the same airports.

Apart from expedients like this, the options seem few and uninspired.

Nobody is thinking outside the box here.

Because airlines are looking for an airline solution, when maybe the solution requires a futurist who understands various transportation options including those that up til now have not been considered.

Right now, many travelers are thinking about driving rather than go through the ordeal of checking in at various airports and having to put up with the indignities and who could blame them.

However, that simply puts more people on the highways and uses up more fuel.

There has to be other solutions.

To my mind, it’s time to rethink high speed ground transportation.

Whenever I am in Europe, I cannot help but compare the sorry state of our rapid transit system with that of the country I am traveling in.

The trains are clean, they are efficient and they arrive on time without personal dislocation.

Why can’t we do that in this country?

Why can’t we use monorails like they use at airports or Disney?

Why are we so locked into a system that is constantly being degraded.

I have been flying and going by train since the 40’s.

In those days the planes were great. Flying was convenient, you were treated nicely, the seats were comfortable and you got where you were going on=time without the crowds.

This was also the era of the streamliner and the diesel where you could travel in style around the country in no more than three days.

Where I’m living now, the State abandoned trains decades ago. Even though the population is headed for the million mark.

Now, if you want to get around the State, you can take all day and make multiple connections to go Wilmington; or you can have a car and spare yourself getting involved in a attempting to go from one place to another with a banana republic kind of transportation system, that is archaic and unbecoming a great country like America..

The same is true in many states.

In New Jersey, if you want to go from one part of the State to another, you have to go through New York first.

It’s crazy and we deserve better.

A good monorail system may be what the doctor ordered with special transit bus connections and big parking lots.

We could get around more efficiently, but most importantly, we can derive a green benefit if all of us think this way.

I thought I’d check out where we stood with ground transportation.

I googled the subject and although I found many citations, most of it viewed solutions from the perspective of the specific industry the author came out of. . I did not find any that looked at the problem from a general outside perspective with the exception of a few sophomoric papers on the subject that must have been submitted by college students.

In the past, I used to turn to government as one of my best sources for research.

Today, they are ultimately barren and I don’t believe anything I get back.

Information, when it is available is dated, inaccurate, misleading and designed to obfuscate. Our own government shows it is wearing badly.

But like everything else plaguing us today, there are few places we can turn unless the public sector or an objective think tank is committed to the subject.

So, we are at an impasse.

We need futurists, planners who are dedicated to examining the overall subject, not expert advice from specialists within a single industry who are on someone’s payroll who has a vested interest in seeing that particular form of transportation pushed over another.

We need an objective overall assessment of what awaits us and a Crusade to come up with better solutions no matter where they lie.

We used to be able to do this in the past.

Just look at how efficiently we reached the moon, a task that shows we can do the impossible if we set our minds to it.

We need that kind of mission to solve our transportation needs.

For the time being, it’s clear that we are in stasis. There has been no new thinking on a host of problems; we have moved backwards instead of forward in many areas and this kind of backwards movement is not going to solve our energy problem or provide solutions to the kind of transportation we shall need in the future..

If anything, transportation is just symptomatic of a much greater problem.

If we can spend nearly a trillion dollars and arrive at no progress in Iraq, we should be able to budget a solution to the problem of transportation that increasingly is becoming something no politician is willing to address.

Shame on us!

Les Aaron

The Armchair Curmudgeon

Politics Blog Top Sites


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