You tool down the freeway toward Berkeley in your electric car on a Monday morning, park in one of several parking garages ringing the town, slide your credit card into a slot to rent a bicycle and pedal madly into the auto-prohibited downtown, dodging Razors, scooters, skateboarders and buses.
It's 2018, gas is $10 a gallon and the landscape of the Bay Area and California, once known as "the commuter state," have changed inalterably.
With the price of gasoline out of reach for many, California will be unrecognizable in ten years as the auto-dependent state where the aptly named "free way" was enshrined, experts say. Peoples' ways of commuting, working and socializing will change forever.
This is a statethat's driven by autos, pun intended. But with gas prices still up more than $1 a gallon compared with last year, already motorists are changing their behavior.
Californians have used less gasoline for almost three years now, burning 2.2 percent less this April. Seventy-eight percent of Californians are driving less because of higher gas prices, according to a July Field Poll. In the Bay Area, BART ridership has jumped 6 percent compared with a year ago, to record-breaking levels.
And this is nothing compared to the changes coming up, experts say.
Which might explain why you plugged your car into an electric outlet at the parking garage for a different kind of fillup. Once the car is buzzing with electrons, excess current
"Electric-drive vehicles ... will almost definitely dominate in the future, with biofuels probably playing a modest role," said Daniel Sperling, director of UC Davis' Institute of Transportation Studies, in "Two Billion Cars," an upcoming book from Oxford University Press.
As you ride toward downtown, you pass one of the town's many Biodiesel Oasis fueling stations. As independent gas stations closed, Biodiesel Oasis moved in, dispensing biodiesel and other alternative fuels. (In reality, the woman-owned Berkeley alternative fuel collective took over its first conventional gas station in 2008.)
Inhaling as you pass the station, you savor the aroma of French fries — much more pleasant than the aura of burning fossil fuels, now almost completely absent from this and most other California cities' downtowns.
But you mustn't let that distract you. The distant wail of a railroad train warns that the crossing up ahead may soon be closed, and the soft whir of blades nearby draws your attention to the hypnotic spin of a wind turbine generating energy.
"California will become more like European cities but with solar and wind powering these centers of revitalized development," said Oakland's Richard Register, founding president of Urban Ecology and author of a number of ecological tomes.
"Rails will come back big time, including a much more properly funded Amtrak that actually owns its track and high speed, as airlines atrophy to shadows of their past glory."
Bouncing over the railroad tracks, you pass commuters fresh off BART, as a parade of buses roars past on your left.
Many of those buses run on hydrogen. The maximum practicable number of hydrogen vehicles that could be on the road by 2020 is 2 million, according to a new congressionally mandated report from the National Research Council.
Other buses use electricity, as do the scooters and motorcycles thronging the streets. Luckily, Berkeley's Green Motors, founded in 2007, now has dealerships selling electric vehicles all over the state. (Actually, in a move fraught with symbolism, Green Motors got its start in an old Cadillac dealership, McNevin Cadillac on San Pablo, in 2007.)
As you continue down the bicycle path, one of many on neighborhood streets, you swerve to avoid a fat red tomato on the sidewalk. Residents have long since abandoned grassy yards for gardens similar to the Victory gardens of World War II. But these mini-crops represent victory over high-priced produce trucked or flown in via pollution-spewing trucks and airplanes.
By now, your steadily pumping legs have propelled you halfway down University Avenue. Stopping for coffee, you chain your bike outside one of the many farmer's market outlets partnering with Safeway and Lucky throughout the state to sell locally grown and manufactured foods and products.
Though you live in the East Bay, you tooled into Berkeley from Richmond, not Brentwood or Livermore. Much as downtowns, Berkeley's included, became deserted centers of urban blight in the 1970s, the suburbs are now deserted, except for communities surrounding BART and downtown.
"You're almost certain to see an explosion of dense communities built around BART stations," said Jamais Cascio, a research affiliate of the Palo Alto-based Institute for the Future. "A new residential community is being built right at the Pleasant Hill BART station, and a new one just went in at the Concord BART station," Cascio said.
"$10-a-gallon gas would be an impetus for moving people back into existing urban centers. Not necessarily just San Francisco, Oakland or San Jose, but in what we think of as suburban areas. One would presume a movement of people closer to their job sites or transit or both," said John Goodwin of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.
On the weekends, skateboarders ride motorcycles to the vast, empty parking lots of former Alameda and Contra Costa County malls, where they practice their ollies, kickflips and lipsides.
In the evenings, the owners of the Parkside Speakeasy Theater show films on the sides of former Macy's and Nordstrom outlets. "Who Killed the Electric Car?" is a favorite anachronism, greeted with howls of laughter.
As you cruise into work at the algae farm, you're one of the only people there. Most of your coworkers telecommute; the rest have staggered hours.
Quickly, you fire up the computer and turn on the videoconferencing software to start your meeting. In a separate section out back, thousands of bags of water dangle from racks, growing algae to be converted into vehicle fuel.
"It's possible to make biofuel out of algae," said Sean Snaith, a University of Central Florida economist. This is a cellulosic, or plant-based, approach to producing ethanol.
And so it goes, a typical day in California's future. When it's time to go home, can you take comfort in the fact that the infamous Bay Area traffic jams have been eliminated?
In a word: No.
"There's always going to be traffic jams," said Karl Brauer, editor-in-chief of car site Edmunds.com. "But certainly conservation will have an impact."
As you jump on your bike, that should be something of a consolation. At least the crowded bike trails will give you a chance to smell the roses — or , rather, the tomato plants.
Price of a gallon of gas - $7.50
Price of a gallon of milk - $6.63
Median price of a home - $901,900
Average household income - $135,153.90
(Source: Bay Area Council. Best guesses for the Bay Area based on the compound annual growth rates found by the Council for the region.)