The Odds in Getting a National Dualmode System


Francis Reynolds

In Response to the June contribution of Dr. Hopkins

Difference of opinion on the chance of something happening is what makes horse races. I don't bet on horses, but I have been betting on our having a dualmode transportation system. Since mid-1996 I have put my retiree heart, questionable soul, and sometimes brain into the conception and promotion of a national dualmode transportation system. One that what I think would cure or reduce a raft of our transportation and environmental miseries. I still think that, but recently my conviction that we will eventually have such a system has been weakened somewhat.

The other members of the HiLoMag team are doubtless full of opinions of their own on what the odds are on acquiring such a system. And doubtless some of them would disagree with at least part of what follows. So I won't venture to speak for them.

Dr. John Hopkins obviously isn't as convinced of the superiority of the dualmode concept as are the dualmode aficionados who contribute to and frequent this Web site, but we can forgive him for that. More importantly, Hopkins and many others seem to be convinced that there won't be a national dualmode system or other extensive innovative modern transportation system—they are convinced that we can't get there from here—that the bureaucratic maze of modern government and society is just too complicated and daunting.

These doubters have expressed their pessimistic views eloquently, so they need not be repeated here. But snide remarks aside, we need to examine the whole pessimism-realism-optimism spectrum as it applies to innovative transportation. People who look at a rainbow (another type of spectrum) all see pretty much the same thing. But people who look at a transportation proposal see quite different things from each other, depending upon their training and experience.

To get personal for a moment, I am an inventor as well as an engineer. For the most part these two arts, skills, professions, or what ever we wish to call them, go very well together—they complement each other. But to a degree they also conflict. A good engineer tends to be scientific, exact, completely honest, unbiased, and largely devoid of emotion in his work.

An inventor, on the other hand, has to believe in the success of what he or she is trying to do even when there is no more than a gut feel for what the invention is going to be. An inventor has to be an optimist, because the satisfactions furnished by that optimism support the drive required to persevere. An inventor, like a salesman, tends to exaggerate the advantages, while downplaying the disadvantages.

But in defense of the inventors, innovators, and entrepreneurs of the world, these are the people at the root of progress—these are the people who initiate the process of making good new things happen. Not that all progressive people are on the right track, and the word in the street is that many inventors are crackpots. Could be. Present company excepted, of course

I see more invention than engineering in HiLoMag, my own system, and in most of the other innovative transportation proposals I have studied. We innovative transportation inventors have had the fun of coming up with interesting and promising ideas and have made some major decisions, but in most cases we haven't done much of the long, hard, costly, and sometimes boring engineering. Except for optimistic guesstimates there are few numbers in our work. But the idea stage is where we have to start, and ideas are usually qualitative rather than quantitative.

What you will find throughout our work is optimism. Yet Hopkins asked me in his latest rebuttal to "Eschew optimism." The sad fact is that Hopkins' pessimistic views come much closer to the real world than my optimistic views do. I have been seeing myself in an imaginary society where our great achievements will be widely recognized, appreciated, and rapidly put into use. Now Hopkins' rebuttals attempt to get me to pay attention to the real facts of modern life and government in these United States. And every newspaper is full of horror stories on how impossible it is to get good things done. Further, almost inevitably there are arguments over which things are good.

In looking at myself I see an optimist when it comes to inventing and other work of my own. But I am a pessimist with regard to the doings of government and stupid people (stupid in my opinion, of course). For the past four years the optimist in me has prevailed. I have assured myself and others that common sense (as I see it) would win out. It was only a question of how long it would take for the leaders, populace, and corporations to see the great merits of this dualmode transportation system, and to get it designed, built, and into operation. Dreamer!

I still firmly believe that a good dualmode system is the only thing that can save us from a great many of our transportation problems and related environmental problems. But I am no longer completely convinced that it will be built. I truly hope it will be, for the sake of the world and my grandchildren. (Even if it was built immediately it couldn't possibly be completed in time for most of us to use it.)

The effort that the team and I have made has been challenging and fun for the most part. I made it fun for myself by concentrating on the fun parts, and told myself that the difficult parts (getting it implemented) are going to be other people's problems. There are plenty of people out there who are good at and enjoy the political fights that I find distasteful.

If we (those of us who pursue this game and those who will follow us) fail to get a better and desperately needed transportation system implemented it won't be because we didn't try. But what are the odds? How the heck should I know? It depends upon how well we and other right-thinking people can prevail over the real and very powerful bureaucratic forces of stagnation.


Last modified: June 06, 2000