Wall Ball— or WalBall, if Walmart ponies up the cash to buy the rights — is baseball with one tiny, gigantic quirk: if a fielder catches a ball directly off of a wall, the batter who hit that ball is out.
This change will serve multiple purposes:
- it could allow for much smaller field sizes* without leading to a correspondingly large increase in home runs, so long as the outfield walls are built very tall. This can allow for much cheaper ballparks (whether at the recreational, amateur, or professional level), both for outdoor fields in urban areas where land is expensive, or for retractable-roof stadiums where reductions in field size can result in disproportionately large roof-cost savings
- it could make fielding and base-running much more of a coequal part of the game with hitting and pitching, rather than a distant third and fourth in terms of importance. One result of this will be far more highlight-of-the-night plays. Another may be more athletic players
- it could make game durations much shorter, as there will be more fly ball outs and, depending on the placement and height of any walls in foul territory, more foul outs too
- In city parks, it can prevent long fly balls or line drives from hitting pedestrians, parked cars, or cars in motion, thereby freeing up valuable park space or parking space in urban areas
- It could serve as a practice facility for amateur baseball players, and, particularly in very small parks, could allow recreational or practice games without needing nine players a side
- it could make for interesting variations from one ballpark to another. If there are also seats above the wall (assuming Wall Ball takes off enough to become more than just a recreational endeavor) it could make for cool outfield seats, much closer to the infield
- the high outfield walls could double as gigantic projector screen surfaces (the Dallas Cowboys’ jumbotron, by way of comparison, is 72 feet high), to be used for movies, concerts, etc. And the side of the wall facing away from the field could be a climbing wall!
*If, say, the outfield walls were made to be 37 feet tall (the same as Fenway’s Green Monster), and placed 310 feet from home plate (same as the Green Monster) in left field and right field, and 350 feet in center field, the overall field would be roughly 10-20 percent smaller than a typical MLB field. If the walls were 75 feet tall (a double Monster), at 290 feet in left and right field and 340 at center, the field would be maybe 20-30 percent smaller. If the walls were 150 feet high…well, you get the idea. Granted, such extreme reductions in field sizes would leave much less open space for balls to drop into the outfield for a hit. This would increase the importance of outfielders’ defensive ability (and especially their ability to catch balls off of the wall) and infielders’ ability to prevent singles
Pitching to Walmart:
The World Series may not be about actual world supremacy, but Walmart’s fight with Amazon might be. Walmart has one huge challenge – it must attract customers to its stores – and one huge asset: vast real estate holdings (mostly, its mega-parking lots) located close to Americans’ homes.
One big question is, in a future with online shopping, space-efficient autonomous-valet parking lots, mobility apps, and the like, what will Walmart do with parts of its gigantic parking lots, in order to prevent its customers from abandoning it for online retailers? One possible answer is recreation and entertainment. A small baseball field could fit easily into just a small fraction of a Walmart parking lot. (In fact, entire MLB stadiums could fit in Walmart parking lots, that’s how crazy North American parking lots really are). The outer-facing side of the outfield walls could act as drive-in movie theatres for the parking lot, and the field itself could double as a (wall-shaded) park or outdoor market.
If you build it, Walmart…
- Stanley Cup Playoffs
Reward regular season success and increase fan excitement with an Opponent Draft: the 1-seed gets to pick its first-round opponent from any of the bottom-eight seeds. Then the 2-seed picks from among the seven remaining bottom-eight seeds. Then the 3-seed picks. And so on: the top seven teams would all get to draft their first-round playoff opponents.
- All-Star Weekend
- Have the All-Star Game be an Offense-Defense Game: a team of forwards versus a team of defensemen
- In the speed-skating contest, have the racers skate at the same time as one another, like they do at the Olympics
- Power Play Elimination Contest: The top power play units in the league compete in an elimination contest, with AHL all-stars providing the penalty killers and goalies. You are eliminated from the contest if you do not score a goal in two minutes. You can pull your own goalie at any time for a 6 on 4, but if the penalty-kill scores short-handed you are out. If there are time constraints in the contest, the team that scored earlier in the clock wins
- Sharpshooter Elimination Contest: instead of shooting from a stationary position, which never happens in real hockey games, the sharpshooter has to skate into their shot, like they would on an odd-man rush. They should maybe also be aiming at something more interesting than a usual target: perhaps at a bottle on a ledge (Coca-Cola could sponsor…). If you miss you are eliminated: the last shooter standing wins.
- The Imperial Box: the NHL needs more helmet-off exposure for its all-stars. The Imperial Box, then, is a special VIP box in which only the all-stars are allowed to sit and watch a game together. You could have this box at Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals. .
…OR, you could put it at the NHL Open:
- The 3-on-3 NHL Open
The current outdoor games should continue to be played the way they are, but in addition to them there should be some smaller-scale outdoor games, games in which the stands are actually located next to the rink like they are in indoor arenas. Probably the only venue suitable for such an event would be New York’s 23,770-seat Arthur Asche Stadium, where the US Open tennis tournament is held. While it is probably not big enough to hold a full-sized NHL rink without renovation to the lower bowl, it could host a smaller rink on which to play 3-on-3. I would suggest hosting at least an All-Star Game or exhibition games there. The stadium had a retractable roof put in in 2016, so it can handle any bad weather. Pictured above is the time when the WNBA played a game there in 2008.
Shared bus-bike lanes are an imperfect compromise. They get buses and cyclists away from cars, but also often limit buses’ maximum speeds and force cyclists to wait behind buses at bus stops.
With today’s smartphones, though, people have two new tools at their disposal that could change how bus-bike lanes are configured: bus apps and bike-sharing (or scooter-sharing, etc.) apps.
Imagine, for example, a bus-bike lane in which a bus comes every 10 minutes on average, but with there sometimes being a much longer wait between busses. In the olden days, that long, uncertain wait could be an agonizing experience. But with bus apps and bike-sharing apps, you can:
— wait for the bus without any uncertainty as to when it will actually show up
— walk to a nearby shop (or transit oasis)to wait for the bus indoors, use the bathroom, etc.
— not wait for the bus at all, but instead rent a bike to use on the bus-bike lane
— wait somewhat longer than you otherwise would, to avoid an over-crowded bus
Obviously, these apps might make it easier to get around a city by bus or bike. But they could also, perhaps, allow for the creation of an excellent and extreme type of bus-bike lane:
The Bus Train Bike Lane
Now imagine that instead of one bus coming once every 10 minutes on average, three buses come closely bunched together in a bus ‘train’ once every 30 minutes on average. For cyclists, this would mean there would, in effect, be only a third as many buses to make them stop at bus stops. For buses too, it could mean that cyclists would no longer slow them down: whenever a bus train approaches, cyclists could simply pull over to the curb in order to let it pass.
This would not have been possible in the past of course, as waiting 30 minutes for a bus (or more, in case of delays which would inevitably occur sometimes) would not have been practicable. But with today’s excellent batch of waiting options – no uncertain wait times, the ability to walk somewhere close by to get shelter from the outdoors or to use a bathroom, the ability to rent a bike, etc. – it might actually work. Indeed, it might have several other benefits too:
- Bus-bike lanes tend to be wider than bike-only lanes, which may be increasingly useful as the Baby Boomers age and as mobility-sharing services proliferate. A wide bus-bike lane could allow faster cyclists or e-bikers to safely overtake slower cyclists, rollerbladers, e-wheelchairs, scooters, etc.
- A smartphone-era bus train bike lane could also make bussing and cycling more efficient by facilitating express bus routes. Bus stops could be farther apart since people would have the option of using a bike to get to or from their bus stop. Having bus stops farther apart would help cyclists as well as bus riders, as there would then be fewer bus stops to slow down both types of vehicles. With fewer bus stops, you could also make the bus stops wide enough to allow cyclists to overtake the stopped buses.
- It’s easily weather-adjustable: when the weather is bad for cycling, you can easily use the lane as a conventional bus-bike lane instead, by simply disbanding or at least shortening the bus trains, so that buses arrive more frequently. This would also be useful since people do not like to wait a long time for buses in bad weather, and they do not like to walk further to get to or from express bus stops in bad weather, rather than walk a short distance to a local stop.
- Eventually, the bus train could perhaps become a partially automated platoon, with only the lead bus in each group driven by a human. This would be a benefit at least in financial terms, and it might be more technically or politically more viable than wholly driverless buses. Plus, even if all buses do remain human-driven, bus trains could perhaps help make bus drivers’ jobs easier by allowing all but the lead drivers to use auto-pilot features for a decent chunk of the time. Bus drivers might also find driving in bus train formations less lonely.
- With extra-long bus trains (say, a ten-bus bus train, arriving once or twice an hour on average), you might be able to differentiate a bus or two in each train, in useful or interesting ways. For instance you might have a RoRo (roll on, roll off) Bus for cyclists, wheelchairs, rollerblades, or scooters, which would have no seats, floor-level doors, and handholds.
To sum up, then, it’s a time-sharing, weather-adjustable, potentially semi-autonomous express bus-bike lane, where bikes and other ultra-lightweight forms of mobility are used as a first mile-last mile option for bus riders, in addition to being an excellent means of transport in their own right.
Instead of resisting the ‘bus bunching’ that occurs so frequently in our cities, the bus train bike lane would embrace it, turning bus bunching to its advantage through the use of bus apps and bike-sharing.
Coming Soon (Hopefully)
Geopolitics and the English Language
Mackinder and Keynes in 1919
Founders and Friends (1700s World Leaders)
The Cedar-Sinai Region
In 1492, Other Stuff Happened Too
The Future of Shortcuts
Geopolitics 101: A Suggested Reading List
I know, I know, but I’ve decided to do this anyway. Here are the lessons:
1. Winter is Coming
In the North, cycling advocates may need to make a choice between separated bike lanes and seasonal bike lanes. While separated bike lanes are preferable, seasonal ones may be more politically viable. A seasonal compromise between cars and bikes could consist of cyclists getting a bike lane for three quarters of the year, and then that bike lane becoming a car-parking lane in winter. This would allow older drivers to park near their destinations, in order to lessen their risk of slipping on ice when walking to or from their cars.
2. Beware of Dragons
Another choice cycling advocates may sometimes face is between bike lanes on streets versus bike infrastructure at intersections (lanes, or boxes, or signals). While bike lanes on entire streets are obviously preferable, it might be more politically viable to focus on intersections first. It is in the lineup to red lights, after all, where in cyclists’ minds cars can resemble sleeping dragons: an unfurled mass of danger, with a curvy, slithering shape, their scales pushing up tightly against the curb in some places, threatening to crush you when they finally wake from their slumber when the light turns green.
3. Your Allies May Kill You…
While cars are often the fundamental cause of bike accidents, it is other cyclists themselves, the ones who think they are Lance Armstrong, who are often the proximate cause. As a normal cyclist, you may sometimes spend so much attention trying to safely navigate car traffic, that you will let your guard down and forget to be prepared for a much faster fellow cyclist trying impatiently to overtake you. Or, in GOT terms, coming to stab you in the back.
This is a problem, particularly if we want the Baby Boomers to be able to continue cycling into their seventies and beyond — and especially as faster e-bicycles proliferate. Ideally, we would have bike lanes wide enough for faster cyclists to safely overtake slower ones, or else have slower car speeds in order to allow fast cyclists to safely use car lanes to overtake slow cyclists. But advocating for wide bike lanes or slower car speeds is obviously no easy feat. Which brings us, finally, to:
4. …But You Still Need Allies
With car-sharing, many people may soon have the option of using electric micro-cars — ultra-lightweight, relatively slow ‘cars’ that are far more environmentally and economically sustainable than conventional vehicles — that they would not want to buy but would be happy to use. This, of course, would be just one part of the technological phenomenon that is also bringing cities devices like e-scooters, e-bikes, modern e-wheelchairs, and perhaps many other mobility options as well.
As usual, while it might be preferable for cyclists to have a lane for themselves that is separate from all these other vehicles, it might be much more politically viable to advocate for a single wide lane in which cyclists, micro-cars, e-bikes, electric-assist pedal cars, and any other such device would all be able to use. This might also be more environmentally beneficial, as many drivers will probably be more willing to start using a comfy micro-car themselves, rather than start using a bicycle.
Companies like ThyssenKrupp have lately been developing maglev elevators: elevators powered by magnetic levitation rather than hoisted by cables. The possibility that maglev elevators might become widely used has created excitement because, unlike conventional elevators, maglev elevators could be used efficiently even in extremely tall buildings. Even more exciting, can move horizontally in addition to vertically, like a Wonkavator.
One of the most significant potential uses of maglev elevators, however, has been overlooked: their potential to clear subway platforms far more efficiently than normal elevators, and in some cases maybe even more efficiently than escalators or staircases.
Normal elevators, of course, are terrible at getting people out of crowded subway stations quickly. They tend to cause lineups (or scrums) to form outside their doors. This is because only one elevator can operate within an elevator shaft at any one time.
Maglev elevators however could act more like vertical escalators. They can allow multiple elevators to run within the same elevator shaft, which means that so long as you have at least two elevator shafts side by side, one with elevators going upwards and the other with elevators going downwards, multiple elevators can circulate so as to reduce lineups. As soon as one elevator has started to move upwards, another can immediately arrive and open its doors to let in new passengers.
This does not necessarily mean that it will be any faster to use the elevator – though it could become much faster, in cases where the elevator shaft spreads out horizontally at surface level in order to allow multiple elevators to let people off and on at the same time. But what it does mean is that people would be able to get off of their subway platform and onto an elevator more quickly. This, in turn, could mean more comfort and safety within crowded subway stations, and the ability to have trains pulling into stations at shorter intervals.
These elevators could also be very useful for disabled subway passengers, not only by reducing platform and elevator crowding but also because the ability for elevators move horizontally as well as vertically might, in some subway stations, mean that passengers would no longer need to transfer from one elevator to another in order to travel between street level and the subway platform.
One type of station where maglev elevators might be particularly useful could be for trains or bus lines that run in the median of a highway. Maglev elevators could help people access these stations by moving up, across, and then back down (or, if the elevator ran in a tunnel under the highway, down, across, and back up) in order to get people from the side of the highway to the station.
Eventually, perhaps, maglev elevators could also help allow subway lines to be built deeper underground, and at odd angles to the streets above them. This might, in some cases, allow subway lines to be built as diagonal shortcut routes below their cities’ grid-patterned streets, deep enough to avoid the basements of the buildings above them.
Of course, the use of maglev elevators remains annoyingly speculative at this point. In certain situations, there may be lower-tech ways to achieve similar goals:
- Retractable staircases
Downtown subway stations tend to have passengers getting off trains in the morning and back on trains in the evening. As a result, they have a much greater need to clear their platforms quickly in the morning than they do in the evening, and a much greater need to provide spacious platforms in the evening than they do in the morning. Having some of their staircases be retractable (verybasic examples can be seen hereor here), so as to provide a greater number of staircases to help clear platforms in the morning, but fewer staircases taking up precious platforms space in the evening, could perhaps be a decent idea
2. Space beneath staircases or escalators
Another idea to address the trade-off between the number of staircases (or escalators) and the amount of platform space available could be to better utilize space beneath staircases or escalators. Here’s an example of space being used below an airport escalator, for example:
3. Actual Ladders
The worst, but also most fun, solution of all could be to have a bunch of short, sheltered ladders to allow people to climb up and out of a station at the same time.
In theory, ladders are the most space-efficient way to move upwards. In theory, you could have hundreds of ladders fit in a single subway station, allowing a platform to be cleared immediately. Theory is great.