Sunday, May 4, 2008

I hear you, Mr. Baker

On May 4, 2008, the NY Times reprinted a column by Pulitzer Prize winner Russell Baker, well known for his often humorous “Observer” column. The Times picked a column that Mr. Baker had written twelve years ago (1996) to the day, prefacing it with the statement Twelve years ago, the columnist Russell Baker, facing higher gasoline prices, complained about being forced to take his car everywhere.”.

For the vast majority of people in the USA, Mr. Baker's litany of complaints about automobile transportation and the impossibility of living with it, and the impossibility of living without it ring quite true. The automobile gives us the freedom to have extensive mobility, yet it extracts quite a price, and by doing away with any other systems of alternative transportation, has become obligatory. As Mr. Baker notes: I'm mad about not having a bus or streetcar system left like the one that once enabled people to travel those six miles for a little pocket change.”

Now that in the year 2008 the price of gasoline is higher than ever before, the economic costs of automobile – and by extension anything wheel based – are enormous. And, what will change this? Electric and hybrid cars are offered as options, as are alternative fuels. However, these are just possible solutions for the fuel costs. What about the costs of maintaining roads, bridges, tunnels and other components of the infrastructure? What about the costs of traffic accidents, fatalities, and the policing of roads?

Mr. Baker also says I'm mad, too, about people who can't drive being rendered immobile by the national drive-or-else policy.”. Automobile transportation is limited to those in a certain age range, a certain economic status and possessing certain physical and mental capabilities.

And, there are the environmental costs of automobiles and their need for level, hard surfaces, to which Mr. Baker alludes when he says “I'm mad about the grocery having relocated from just around the corner to three miles away in what used to be a cornfield out in the country. And why? Because the grocer needs 15 acres of parking lot to accommodate cars that have to be driven three miles every time you want a bag of grapefruit and a gallon of milk.” All those thousands of acres of parking lots in every town in this country (and just about every country), and thousands of miles of paved roads take away not only green space for enjoyment and recreation, but for the trees and other plants to counteract global warming.

So, what do we do about this? I think the answer is the Aeroduct System of ground transportation which we at Aeromobile Inc. have developed. It consists of mechanically simple air cushion vehicles in elevated guideways, completely automated and weather immune. All the problems Mr. Baker found with an automobile based society, and problems that he did not mention at length – like monumental traffic jams - will be fixed by this system. I hope people take it seriously and soon. I'll have a lot more to say about this in future blog entries.

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