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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Highway to the Future

The snow was coming down hard. At 120 miles per hour, it was blowing sideways, it had no effect on the steadfast path of our car. The maglev line from New York to Los Angeles was finally complete. For the first time, travelers could take the maglev from coast to coast.

Downtown Detroit was the first major city to remove their roads. How ironic? Their persistent shunning of a comprehensive mass transit system made Detroit a prime candidate to pilot the maglev. The first rails in place were surface arteries: Woodward Avenue, Grand River, Telegraph and Southfield.

We were on our way back from Chicago. We had some really good laughs as we looked down at those poor fools down below who were trying to drive manually. At 90 miles per hour faster, it was hard to even count the cars through the dense snow. We didn’t care though. We were busy using our laptops to communicate with some friends that were on vacation in Switzerland. They had had their share of snow there, too.

Nobody ever thought that the Europeans would ever overtake the economic supremacy of the United States. But, the Europeans embraced innovative technologies much quicker than anyone else and their infrastructure became the envy of the rest of the world. Many of the roads in Switzerland had been removed. Switzerland had devised a clever park and ride system that allowed people to take vehicles to a nearby spot where it would be kept until they needed it to take the final leg of their journey home.

In 2029, Switzerland no longer needed any roads. The maglev system was complete. Every route that existed prior was covered. Neighborhoods that had low income housing still needed public parking. That’s because many of the dwellings had no private parking area. In nicer neighborhoods, where people had car parking on premises, most homeowners chose to install rail into their garage or carport.

The merge off the Chicago Skyway was a bit congested, the vehicle density on the rail got high enough to drop our speed down to 60 miles per hour. It never seems as bad when your speed is constant. That’s one thing I don’t miss at all – stop and go traffic. By 2015 we finally reached a time in the major cities when the congestion was unending. People changed shifts just to smooth out the traffic. It didn’t help that much. Basically, it sucked.

The Obama administration had come to office with great expectations. Unfortunately, one contraction was quickly followed by another. In 2010, just when the financial stimulus measures started to grow some significant roots in the economy, hyperinflation kicked in. In hindsight, we should have seen it coming. The government can’t print their way out of trouble. The reality that the United States plays on a global stage with many actors that don’t always do what is best for the world writ large was lost on the economic experts of the day. They thought that they could fix the U.S. economy without factoring the effects of printing massive amounts of money would have on the global economy.
The devaluation of the dollar caused massive loss of liquidity in all the U.S. debtor countries. China and Japan suffered the worst, followed by Malaysia and Korea (after the death of Kim Il-sung, Koreans united, but it was just South Korea back then). With nobody to buy U.S. products and services and our own purchasing power diminished, the reality that we needed to pay back the debt for the party we had enjoyed at the turn of the millennium. The best thing to come out of the Obama public works program was the standardization on the new maglev technology that is based on the Halbach Array. Lots of money was spent building a public transportation system that could later be used to replace the decaying road and bridge system.

As our vehicle neared our exit off of I-94, we realized that we needed to stop and get some food. Deciding to pick up some food at the local shopping mart, I plugged the store into our route home just in time for the car to speed past the transfer it would have taken. I thought to myself about the elegance of using electricity to power the transportation system. Whereas old vehicles relied on combustion of either fossil or agricultural fuel, electric vehicles could be powered by a wide variety of renewable energy sources. One thing the Obama administration did manage to do was create a massive alternative energy economy. The result was advances in wind and solar technologies, but also wave energy in the coastal areas and geothermal energy collection all over the place. Harnessing the energy stored in the Earth’s core turned out to be the easiest and cheapest way to mine for power.
Our car swung silently into the nearest parking spot available at the Meijer. As the doors released, we gathered our coats. Neither of us was looking forward to the 40 yard walk to the store. After grabbing some victuals from store, we were back in our car and headed for home. The snow had started to subside and we could see the pristine white blanket below. As we hit the last transfer into our driveway, the garage door slid silently open ahead. We were home.
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