Chicago, I’m told, has a traffic problem.
I haven’t noticed it because I choose not to believe in traffic. If I have to stop or slow down because I’m surrounded by a large number of other drivers on the road, I simply assume it’s because they’re all excited to see me and want to get a closer look. (It’s just one of the many burdens that comes with being eye candy.)
But according to reporting by my colleague Mary Wisniewski, Chicago is now ranked third in the nation for traffic congestion, worse even than Los Angeles and New York, two cities known for traffic and little else.
The rankings were put together by INRIX, a company that describes itself as “a specialist in mobility analytics,” which I’m pretty sure is just a made-up description, like “specialist in agile ham swindling” or “extrapolator of immeasurable magnanimousness.”
For the sake of argument, let’s assume INRIX is legitimate and our fine city really is one of the worst traffic hubs in America. Trevor Reed, a transportation analyst at INRIX who probably aspires to one day become a specialist in either mobility analytics or agile ham swindling, told Wisniewski: “Congestion costs Americans billions of dollars each year. It will continue to have serious consequences for national and local economies, businesses and citizens in the years to come.”
When you put it that way, this traffic business sounds pretty bad. But don’t worry. As a specialist in farcically analytical mobility, I have some solutions to Chicago’s traffic woes.
Solution No. 1: Jet Packs.
I have long advocated for the proliferation of jet packs, largely because I grew up in the 1970s and 1980s and was effectively guaranteed that in the future we would all have jet packs.
It’s now the future. Gimme my jet pack.
While the technology may not be quite where it needs to be, I feel confident Chicago traffic could be reduced dramatically if the city would issue jet packs to me and about 500,000 other drivers in exchange for our cars.
Each day, we masters of the sky would soar to work, looking down at the relatively light traffic below with a casual smirk while occasionally colliding with other smirking jet pack users and plummeting to our deaths.
The interstates would be far less congested, aside from occasional backups caused by spatula crews cleaning up fallen smirking jet packers.
Solution No. 2: We all stop working.
It’s possible this is an even better solution than the jet packs, and it would certainly involve fewer fiery mid-air collisions.
What’s the main cause of Chicago’s traffic? It’s people going to work.
Why are they going to work? Because they need money. If they didn’t need money, they would just sit home all day and watch Netflix and be happy they didn’t have to interact with humans, a notably dreadful species.
Here’s the thing about money: Some have none, some have a little and some (who aren’t me) have a lot. Yet we all work, piling into cars and turning Chicago roadways into parking lots.
But if we all stopped working and pooled our money, maybe we could get by just fine. I realize the wealthiest among us are going to have to carry the load, chipping-in-wise, but I’m OK with that because I’m not one of the wealthiest among us.
And it’s not like we’re all going to need that much. We’ll get rid of our cars, we won’t have to buy gas and the only expenses will be rent or mortgage, the monthly Netflix fee and snacks.
As a specialist in equitable fiduciary re-allotment, I feel confident in this plan and encourage the wealthiest Chicagoans, in the name of eradicating our city’s traffic crisis, to begin sending me stop-working money as soon as possible.
Solution No. 3: Rebrand traffic.
Who are we to let a bunch of fantsy-pants analytical mobility specialists tell us traffic is a bad thing. This is Chicago. We decide what’s bad (Wisconsin) and what’s good (all encased meat products).
So why don’t we embrace our traffic? No. 3 in the country in terms of traffic congestion? Let’s shoot for No. 1.
Because traffic is only bad if you look at it in terms of pollution, lost time, lost productivity, increased stress and slow descents into madness. We should put a more positive spin on spending an hour not moving on the Kennedy Expressway.
Don’t say Chicago is No. 3 in the country for traffic. Say we’re No. 3 in the country for pre- and post-work mobile mindfulness programs, for it’s only when traveling 1/2 mph on a road ironically named an “expressway” that one can find true enlightenment.
We can call it Tantric Traffic. Our motto can be, “Chicago: Unburdened By the Mental Construct of Time.”
Soon, people will flock to the city to experience our rejuvenating traffic or to spend a few hours enjoying the cleansing Jane Byrne Interchange Meditation Journey.
With more visitors comes more traffic, making the brand self-reinforcing. Eventually we’ll all be so Zen we won’t care whether we’re moving or not.
And that’s when I’ll fly my jet pack to all the wealthy people’s homes and steal their money so I can just sit at home and watch Netflix and never have to sit in traffic or talk to another annoying human again.
Problem solved. You’re welcome.