When it emerged earlier this month that Democratic candidate for governor Dave Stauffer had a plan for a system of waterslides that would ferry rush-hour commuters over the Columbia,
Because here's what you might not know about this idea: It's been developed to an almost impossible level of detail. A year ago, Stauffer even filed a 27-page patent application for "A Mass Transit Rush Hour Bottle Neck Uncorker Water Slide." It is as great as its title suggests.
How do we know? Because the Merc sent Stauffer, of North Portland, a long list of questions about his idea. He sent us the patent application [PDF].
The first thing that catches your eye is the diagrams. For instance:
If that drawing looks involved, it's nothing compared to the application.
In less than 30 pages, Stauffer describes a wondrous system with the power to cut car use, sicken drivers with envy, inject an amusement park sensibility into an otherwise mundane daily occurrence, vastly increase the amount of housing in the Portland metro area, eliminate stress from your daily interstate commute, slash fossil fuel consumption worldwide, harness the power of Niagara Falls, and do it all with very minimal energy use. Cha-ching.
I can't possibly describe it better than Stauffer, but his idea is that enormous water slides will issue forth from atop 30-story parking garages on each side of the river. They'll contain both slower moving water and, beneath that, a "jet" of super fast water, which is what actually propels the inexhaustible supply of skiffs that feed the system. Water would come from pipes in the Columbia, and wouldn't even have to be pumped, under the system Stauffer believes he's devised. AND! You'd be able to reach a variety of destinations via the slides, with tubes looping around select office buildings (around 30 feet off the ground) that contain docking points. See?!
Stauffer says such a system could accommodate 5,000 to 10,000 commuters EVERY DAY.
Here are some of the key passages from his patent application.
• "Such a mass transit system will be almost pollution-free, use gravity as its main moving force, and will be much faster-and less tense—than present commuting through bottleneck traffic."
• "Eventually, fewer freeways and roads will be needed—or, at least, the existing freeways and roads will be more efficient because there will be fewer vehicles using them."
• "Inventor Stauffer's RIVER BOTTOM SIPHON will start many kilometers upstream where the water is higher than the thirty-story parking garage and flow through a pipe on the bottom of the river to the top of the parking garage."
• "...there is an abundance of open space three stories above the city street surfaces that could be used for a system of light-weight water troughs with docks on about the third stories of those high downtown buildings."
• "These same principles and concepts can be adapted to many other city and town traffic bottlenecks throughout the United States and the world."
• "The skiff shall be designed so that commuters will always be able to get out of the skiff even if it turns partially upside down."
• "The front cone will be filled with air, so that, if the skiff ever falls from the trough into water, the front of the skiff will go into the water like a bullet or a high-diving-board diver, and then the air pocket will bring the skiff to the top of the river so that the commuters can be rescued."
• "At the top of the building, a pipeline of fast-flowing water will be provided and deliver fast moving water into a water slide trough that will drop off the 30th floor, greatly speed up the water to the speed of the water that flows off the top ledge of Niagara Falls..."
• "The sudden drop of the skiffs as they ride the trough of water, from the 30th floor of the parking structure, will also be an amusement park ride for those that want to experience thrills; however, more gradual slopes of water might be provided for those that are fearful of the sudden drop."
• "The speed of the traveling skiffs could approach terminal velocity of 122 miles per hour. If skiffs are going 122 miles per hour in a clear plastic water trough, over freeways that are at a standstill, the commuters on the freeways will see the fast-moving skiffs and become jealous."
• "The water troughs will be suspended from tall arch structures that will rise above bridges and freeways. Each arch structure will be an apartment house complex capable of comfortably housing low-income to high-income residents."
If you somehow want to know more about this plan, Stauffer explains it in the video below. Otherwise, Kate Brown's had a good run at the top. You know what to do. (Also, while you're voting for Stauffer: Vote for these people, too.)