Urban: October 2009 Archives

Albany, 2058


[By Andy Arthur, originally published here. Reprinted by permission.]

What the future of the Capital City may be like after peak oil. May 5, 2008.

Albany in recent years has been undergoing quite a renaissance thanks to a change in the economy that made urban real estate much more desirable. The lower part of Arbor Hill is once again tree lined, and owned by mid-level bureaucrats who decades ago purchased up former apartment houses and turned them into quality housing.

Many structures in Albany during that period where either demolished or significantly renovated as new wealth floated into the city. The wealthiest bureaucrats and the whos who of the Albany elite all purchased homes in Center Square, while nearby neighborhoods came dominated by mid-level legislative and executive branch bureaucrats who make New York State government function. Indeed, several former state office buildings have been turned into condominiums and rental housing for the many state employees who continue to work downtown.

A lot of people no longer come downtown to work as their work has been digitized and provided on computers in people's homes. Regional offices for state agencies still buzz with a limited number of top level staff administering their functions, while rank and file work at home. Fiber-optics and widespread digitization means formerly paper forms move in and out of offices quickly. While technology has lead to a moderate decrease in the state workforce, most still are employed, a bit working from all corners of our state.

Today, with gas prices exceeding $25 dollars a gallon in most parts of our state, regular commuting is out of the reach of most New Yorkers. Modern cars are quite fuel efficient getting around 40 miles per gallon of gasoline, and can drive the first 50 miles all on electricity, but even that is expensive in New York State, with going rates exceeding $2 a Kw/h. Driving indeed is a luxury for most New Yorkers - something people do on the weekend for pleasure.

Due to the high cost of energy, houses and commercial structures are vastly more efficient then those of 50 years ago. Insulation is thick, and green roofs are the norm. The average structure consumes half as much energy as years ago, but remains comfortable in the summer and winter alike. Most houses don't heat above 55 degrees Fahrenheit, but without drafts they remain comfortable. Modern clothes, using advanced materials keeps people warm at this temperature, but is not bulky like sweaters of the past. In the summertime, a combination of highly-efficient fans and vent shafts. Incandescent lighting disappeared nearly 40 years ago from the market, and many houses use advanced lumeneres that use T-5 and T-8 florescent to provide lighting at actual rates exceeding 100 lumen for watt. Houses are designed to let in as much light as possible, and it rare that lighting is used at all in the day time. To turn lights on in the daytime, requires the resident to press a special override button that overrides the automatic switch that ensures lights are not on during the day time.

Many houses and apartment structures generate a significant portion of their energy needs. With such high electricity rates, it is quite profitable to sell as much electricity as possible back to the grid. Many houses with solar cells on their roofs can make their occupants as much as $30-$50 a day in energy, much of which won't be consumed immediately and will be sold be back to the grid to provide energy to major industries in our cities.

In the past 30 years the suburbs around our city have seen a collapse and failure. Many former suburban structures have long been abandoned. Many shopping malls have been torn down and the soils under them reclaimed for agricultural purposes, providing reasonably priced food to the cities nearby. Other suburban developments have been purchased by the state after most of the former owners have abandoned their property for the cities or towns where there is more community. Large tracts of suburbia are now wild forests, reverting back to their natural structure after a series of demolitions and controlled burns by the state.

Walk around what used to be Colonie and you will occasionally find foundations from old suburban housing. Dig in the soil you might find abandoned sewer lines. But what you mostly see is grown up woods, and a variety of farms producing virtually every kind of food product one could grow in our region to provide low cost food to the city. You can still see the remnants of the clover leafs of the south bound carriage road of the Adirondack Northway, although those three lanes have been converted over to electrified railroad tracks, and provide light rail service from Saratoga to Albany. The former northbound carriage way on the Adirondack Northway provides sufficient capacity for a two-lane highway that carries the remaining automobile traffic on the road.

Nobody would have guessed that suburbia would be a reversible condition that within 50 years would start to collapse, while cities saw gentrification and new life as never before seen. With such high fuel costs people find it cheaper to live in the city, where they can reach out with a diverse group of people. At the same time, small towns in are growing as they provide low-cost living and easy access to products and culture, and access to work through high-speed Internet.

Despite the increasing cost to travel across the state and the nation, people are well aware of what is happening in the world. The Internet brings in customized information from all kinds of people, from blogs to professional news organizations. Thanks to low-cost wireless internet technology, everybody from anywhere can quickly send information over the internet.

While we still rely on a variety of advanced technological devices, due to their cost of creation and importation to our country with high energy prices, we consume a lot less of them. Many people have computers that are over a decade old, but they still work reliably, as today's computers are much better built, and are too expensive to replace. Technological advancement happens slower now, but has reached maturity so most people are happy with their computers for a long time.

Cities and small towns in our country are flourishing. They are filled with inspired people who now have the time and resources to invest in their communities. Local community organizations are growing, as people have the time and money to invest in their communities. Pollution levels in our country have dropped to lowest levels since the beginning of the industrial revolutions, swimming and fishing are popular pass times in our rivers, which are largely lined with lush parks, particularly near urban areas. Without so much petroleum and other fossil fuels polluting our city skylines, cancer rates have dropped.

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This page is a archive of entries in the Urban category from October 2009.

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