Those Rambling Men

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

I recently blogged about the latest Google innovation-- a GPS tracking system that detects your position on the earth and can guide you to any other place you desire, just by entering keywords through search engine results. I can't say I'm too keen on it; I prefer my paper maps, my sense of adventure (getting lost can be fun), and my privacy (although they say your position is not traced to you personally).

I am quite surprised at the leap toward GPS in the travel-- and everyday-- world. Yet I do wonder if all this GPS hype and talk of its popularity is a false perception, because most of the hooplah I hear is with marketing of GPS. Even my tech news emails are stocked full of GPS news and GPS gadgets you can buy.

Some folks are fed up with the GPS idea, even in its embryonic stage. A small town in Britain wants to take itself off the GPS maps. They are having terrible problems with shipping trucks rambling through their narrow streets. The truck companies, wanting to avoid tolls, fees, and long routes, are directed via GPS through these small villages. Unfortunately, GPS does not detect narrow byways or sharp turns, and the trucks get stuck. Not to mention that these tiny towns have to foot the bill of increased wear and tear on their roads from the increase in traffic.

"They have no idea where they are," said Wayne Hahn, a local store owner who watches a daily parade of vehicles come to grief - hitting fences, shearing mirrors from cars and becoming stuck at the bottom of Wedmore's lone hill. Once, he saw an enormous tractor-trailer speeding by, unaware that in its wake it was dragging a passenger car, complete with distraught passenger.

With villagers at their wits' end, John Sanderson, chairman of the parish council, has proposed a seemingly simple remedy: getting the route through Wedmore removed from the GPS navigation systems used by large vehicles.

This peculiar incidence is not particular to Britain. Here in Upstate, we are seeing an exponential increase in delivery traffic through our smaller towns and cities. This is in part due to GPS, but that is in part due to increases in tolls for New York highways. Naturally, trucking companies will alter their routes if it means saving money. New York seems adamant with their toll hikes, and reluctant to consider the consequences. Therefore, the government is essentially forcing higher traffic to towns with small roads and even smaller budget accounts.

A fellow Upstate blogger, Strikeslip, is raging over these unfair tax hikes for using NY roads, says:

This time truckers say they will be avoiding the Thruway and using secondary roads if the hike goes through. Just what we need on our secondary roads ... more traffic. And, of course, those big rigs will mean more wear and tear on the roads that local municipalities may have to raise taxes to fix.

But those trucks will only be those that HAVE to be on NY roads because they serve a NY clientèle. Trucks that have origins and destinations out of NY will try to avoid the state all together. But worse, BUSINESSES for whom Upstate NY might be a convenient location will avoid coming here to keep the costs of their products low. Others that may be here now may leave.

Without this 500 mile highway, a huge swath of Upstate NY becomes a backwater. If it is priced so that it is not used, it's like not having it at all.

I do recall that decades ago, New Yorkers were promised that once the Thruway construction was paid for, tolls would end. When was that, 1965?

Strikeslip is right. Forcing or encouraging heavy trucks across roads unsuitable for such heavy traffic is a problem in the making. Don't we already have a decaying infrastructure in this country? Time to rethink these transportation methods before these small communtities are mowed down.

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