Ramblings about Transportation

I am sitting here looking out the window in Warsaw International Airport. It is a cloudy day here, it has been cloudy since the day I have arrived. From what I gather, that is pretty standard for this landlocked country [I would also be cloudy everyday if I was landlocked]. Being that I, unlike the rest of the group I was here with, am heading back to New York, I have been waiting about six hours here in the airport and I have a little less than four before I board the only LOT airlines direct flight from here to New York. While sitting here and trying to use my time productively I have had some thoughts about transportation that I feel would be worthwhile to write down.

Transportation is a gem of human civilization. We as humans have figured out how to get ourselves from one place to another using something other than the first degree of our physical body. If you take a second to think about it, it is one of the most awesome achievements we have accomplished.

I am not quite versed on the history of transportation but I would imagine that we started by learning how to swim, then to domesticating animals such as horses, making boats, building carriages, inventing trains and cars and eventually coming up with and implementing the current alpha-transporter of our time: the airplane. I am sure I missed something, but you get the point. Pat yourself on the back; we have come a long way.

These modes of transport can be categorized in somewhat rough categories: on-demand, quasi-on-demand, and reservation-only.

Anything only using our body is on-demand in the purest sense, I get up when I want and start walking wherever whenever I want and on basically any terrain. I have some limitations, but this selection of transport work on my command.

The middle quasi-on-demand section includes most modes of transportation. The closest to body-only transport would probably be using a bicycle and boat. These modes have their positives and negatives, such as being faster; yet still having terrain limitations and being a physical object you got to carry around. A plain horse would be close by. It includes all the limitations of the previous but you got to feed it and such. The benefit is that it doesn’t run on your physical power. A car, and carriage would be more towards the middle having a lot of additional upkeep and maintenance worries, but they make up some of it in their massive convenience. Traffic also becomes a factor at this point. I would probably place trains and buses [trains would depend on where you live but I am judging them based on there availability in the US & A] towards the end, because they require you to go somewhere and work on their schedule and stops.

The “apex” of this food chain is the little thing we call airplanes. Airplanes are wonder-us machines. These tube shaped flying ships would confuse anyone from over 100 years ago. In fact Maimonides, in one of his essays, uses the example of flying bronze ships as something that will never be possible — well Shalom Maimonides, we made it. The whole shtick with these flying ships is that you have to reserve a ticked before hand, while you can show up and by a ticket it most certainly will not work out in your favor. Subsequently, I place them under the category of reservation. Once you plan and get your tickets you got to make your way to the airport a lot of waiting ensues. You wait to check in your bags, you wait to go through security, you wait for boarding to start, then you wait for the airplane to take off, and once your land you roughly do the same exact thing backwards. [Side-note: there are also a ton of these workers working behind the scenes putting all these pieces together. I see a little bit of this out this window here — there are bunch of yellow reflective suited minion people frantically driving around these mini trucks trying to get everything in place. One day this will probably be automated.]

So here is the kicker– are these systems maximized to their fullest? Heck, do these systems even make sense or are they just a gradual evolutionary result of small innovations? To be quite honest I am not sure.

I think as we get higher on the totem-pole, the answer is more likely no then yes. I am pretty sure we have maximized walking [although, I personally believe I am on to a new and improved walking method — I have yet to do a legitimate study on it, ill keep you updated ;) ], and as much as I hate the system of driving, I believe once we get self driving cars down it will be much faster and better. My least favorite system is the one that takes place above our heads, aviation. Planes are nice and all, and the plane itself is probably a very efficient machine [while I do not know why plane speeds have not been dramatically increasing over the past years. I actually read and article that BOOM is working on this issue], but I just feel the system isn’t right.

I don’t want to spend a whole day traveling. Four hours to get across the world including wait times and I would be a happy camper. But all this waiting and overhead for something that is not even that fast, or cheap… I don’t know, I feel we can do better.

To be honest, these are just thoughts. Maybe next time I will entertain a few ideas on how to replace the aviation system, but in the meantime — am I cray or what?

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