It looks like it will be slow-going in the future. I’m not talking about how information travels in our society–that continues to get faster. I’m not talking about the pace of life, as humans adapt to getting less and less sleep or time to relax because we work more and spend more time staring at video screens. I’m talking about how we transport ourselves from one place to another.
One of the most progressive things done by government in the past decade was to raise the speed limit on our interstates and expressways to 70-miles an hour. That knocked twenty percent off the travel time needed to get between our major cities. Oshkosh to Green Bay fell from just over an hour to about 45-minutes. Oshkosh to Milwaukee from almost an hour and a half to just over an hour. Double that for a round-trip and you can see what an incredible time (and money) saver that is.
But now “progress” is seen as anything that slows us down. Outagamie County wants to lower the speed limit on Interstate 41 from Appleton to De Pere back to 55. That would add another 15 minutes to trips from Oshkosh to Green Bay–each way. Major cities are dedicating precious street space and public transportation dollars to streetcars–that can only go as fast as the traffic already on the road–and run on limited schedules (or in the case of Cincinnati, if they run at all). Even here in Oshkosh, traffic lanes are sacrificed for bike lanes. And everyone wants to spend money on walking paths through cities–the absolute slowest form of transportation.
As with many things today, the actions of a few are ruining life for the many. It’s just a handful of people that cause accidents along Interstate 41 by driving like idiots. Just a couple thousand people in major cities want to ride a trolley everyday. And the few hard-core bikers here in Oshkosh are certainly not wearing out the bike lanes–especially between November and March.
Some think that autonomous cars will put us back on the fast track. They envision columns of vehicles moving in perfect synchronized speed at regular intervals traversing all of our roads safely. But as anyone who has ever used a computer knows, the crash–in this case literal–is always just seconds away. And what do you do with those of us who will never, ever, ever give up control of our vehicles to the machine itself?
No wonder Millenials do all of their shopping, socializing and entertaining on-line nowadays. They know it’s getting harder to get anywhere fast.