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The term “transportation” is used variously to designate the process, the means, or the systems whereby socially meaningful objects are conveyed through space. Transportation involves the relocating of such objects, by an energy-consuming mechanism, through an environmental medium; the social consequences of transportation may be both intended and unintended.

This breadth of reference indicates a concept that is not easily definable, for it does not refer to a clearly delimited aspect of social reality. When the objects being transported are human beings, or when humans move by self-locomotion, in conceptual terms transportation merges with mobility. At another extreme, when objects are messages composed of meaningful symbols, transportation blends with communication. Perhaps this definitional ambiguity reflects the fact that transportation is the basic process by which direct physical contact and exchange among social units is attained and maintained. Given that transportation is a basic support to social organization and communication, it requires systematic organization in the interest of reliability.

Scholars in various fields have been concerned with one or more of the elements involved in transportation: the character and distance of the space to be traversed; the technological and energy resources available for and actually in use; personnel and skills; motives, decision-making processes, and knowledge that bear on use, operation, and other related activities and decisions; the organizational characteristics of systems; and the diverse social consequences of system qualities and use.

Historical development

The inability to mass at one point in space all resources, persons, and related activities essential for minimal social life necessitates movement. Movements have varied in frequency, distance, timing, temporal extension, and function among different societies in different epochs, according to variations in environmental contingencies, aspirations, and levels of knowledge. Furthermore, the ability to achieve economical movement has been a condition necessary to the maintenance of any stable culture.

Early men were largely nomadic. Having only minimal cultural attainments, they survived by living off relatively inhospitable and easily exhausted environments. Survival required periodic movement from depleted to more sustaining areas. Prior to the domestication of animals and basic transport-related inventions, such as the wheel, this movement was difficult and dangerous; however, there is evidence that even then the more advantaged groups also organized some movement for trade purposes (Brew 1950). All movement depended on the availability of passable routes, environment being the key determinant of direction, speed, and distance.

With the development of permanent settlements, nomadic wandering declined, but a different type of movement remained an essential part of the way of life. The agricultural, hunting, and pastoral economies of these settlements required regular movements, functionally akin to the modern journey to work, away from clustered residences to the locations of sustenance activities. Together with other factors, inefficient and high-energy-consuming transportation and production technologies kept the populations and land areas of these first permanent settlements small by modern standards. Technological innovations facilitated developing complexity and specialization in social organization. As isolated societies accumulated surpluses in goods, services, personnel unneeded for primary economic activities, and transportation resources, and as tastes were developed for unavailable goods and services, regular trading over established longdistance routes increased markedly in scope and quantity (Childe 1942, chapters 3-4). While technical skills, transport capacity, and related knowledge of transport principles and environments were adequate for the establishment of such routes, transportation was neither easy nor always successful.

Means of transportation that permit uninterrupted movement on land, water, or in air, in any combination, or through all the markedly different conditions that exist within a medium, have never been contrived. Hence, the conduct of long-distance trade required the establishment of settlements wherever environmental variations along routes required the transfer of goods and travelers from one mode of transportation to another. A number of the major cities of the world originated as settlements at what were break-in bulk points for the transportation systems of the time.

This is not intended as support for a single-cause theory of urban settlement and location, nor does it imply that the effect of transportation on urban settlements is always growth and development. As Cottrell’s apt title “Death by Dieselization” (1951) suggests, improvements in technology or routes may result in urban decay or abandonment. Settlements with origins in the provision of transportation-requiring services are most likely to thrive and survive when, for whatever reason, their functional bases expand and/or when their locations have been determined by very drastic environmental barriers, such as the shift from land to water or from plains to mountains (Chinitz 1960).

The early empires. The sociopolitical epoch of small city-states was followed by the period of large nation-states and empires which exploited their transportation resources—in conjunction with combined population, military, and diplomatic advantages—in order to establish integrated rule over vast areas containing many formerly independent units linked only by trade relations. These large political units owed their success and stability in large part to the development, maintenance, and operation of improved transport nets, which facilitated rapid movement of the considerable quantities of military, political, and economic goods and personnel so necessary to a large integrated nation. To a degree no longer the case, the transportation networks of the time were also the communication networks. The road systems of the Romans, the Incas, and the Mayas provide classic illustrations of these systems (Cooley 1894), although mastery of water transport was often equally critical. Within the borders of such nations space represented a cost of ordered integration, being paid for in the value of resources committed to transportation. In fact, the boundaries of these early empires were determined to a great extent by their relatively primitive means of transportation; seas, mountains, and rivers set natural limits to expansion.

Modern empires. After the period of the early great empires and a period of decline or arrested growth in the West during the Middle Ages, came the period of newer territorially diffused empires of Western nations. In this modern era, initiated by trade revivals and characterized by more advanced levels of social organization and cultural accomplishment, transportation was, as the case of Great Britain so well exemplifies, a key to empire. At least in its inception, the course to empire was intertwined with knowledge of and capacity for marine transportation. While contiguous segments were linked by road, canal, and, later, rail nets, maintenance of effective central organization and control of dispersed colonies depended upon reliable and dependable navies and merchant marines. Toward the end of the period of imperialism, innovations in rail and road transportation had so enhanced the ability of imperialist nations both to organize the mother country and to exploit a few particularly desirable colonies that large empires were no longer as advantageous as they were in the nineteenth century (Wolfe 1963, pp. 70-91). Of course, the assertion by most former colonies of their independence left the imperialist nations little choice in this respect.

Modern air transport technology, in a world in which major powers conduct their foreign affairs with subtle and covert techniques of influence and exploitation, has all but obviated recent geographic patterns of empire and spheres of control by affording rapid access to any point on the globe. Not only may such empires no longer be desirable or necessary, but aircraft, as yet, cannot sustain indefinitely the large-scale movements of goods and persons necessary for building and maintaining them. In contrast, modern transportation innovations have enabled expansion of the land boundaries of the larger, more powerful nations, often permitting them to surmount former environmental barriers. However, even today, major barriers like the Pamir Knot or the Andes, particularly when approached through equally difficult environments for land or water transport, act as restraints on expansion into contiguous areas.

The study of transportation

Social scientists of all disciplines, interested in such diverse problems as settlement patterns, international politics and warfare, spatial organization of societies and their economies, and land values, repeatedly find themselves concerned with some aspect of transportation. A synthesis of their efforts permits the statement and critical assessment of certain propositions concerning transportation.

Technological innovation. Transportation technology includes vehicles and fixed routes imposed on free space, as well as assorted service, control, and administrative complexes. The latter sustain and increase the speed, range, and load capacities of the former. As a human creation, technology is potentially completely alterable within natural limitations; change is restricted largely by ignorance, inertia, and scarcity of resources. However, man has failed to invent vehicles with large load capacities that can efficiently pass from one medium to another. In fact, no operational vehicle has yet been contrived that can operate uninterruptedly under all conditions that may be encountered in a single medium. Innovations in technology are generally less expensive and more manageable than alterations in environments. However, costly environmental alterations, by such means as tunneling, bridging, canal digging, and regrading, have often been undertaken as a result of technological innovations (railroads, for example) that offered substantial gains in speed or load capacity (O’Dell 1956).

Adoption of possible transportation innovations is not necessarily a direct function of financial returns. In some cases, innovations that raise costs and/or reduce returns are adopted out of sheer miscalculation or for military, political, or other considerations. In other cases, as inaction on proposals for tunnels under the English Channel and slowness in installing safety devices in automobiles exemplify, economically feasible innovations remain unimplemented because they raise fears or run counter to long-established public tastes. Feasible innovations sometimes await developments in related nontransportation technologies for implementation. For example, because a destroyed bridge might block a vital harbor mouth, bridges were not built over strategic harbor entrances until improved salvage skills had enabled rapid unblocking of harbors or until innovations in military technology had antiquated the once strategic installations that might have been isolated. Thus the process of innovation in transportation depends not only on knowledge and resources for direct manipulation of the environment and transportation technologies, but also on tastes, irrational fears and desires, and innovations in related skills and technologies.

Rationality in transportation systems. Most of the considerable monetary cost of transportation systems is incurred by creating, operating, and maintaining various technologies. In addition, there are always some psychic costs entailed in making decisions regarding innovations and use, as well as indirect costs that may arise in diverting resources from other potential uses. Social scientists generally adopt some form of rationalistic model for handling these various costs in analyzing solutions to transportation problems or decisions involving transportation. One example of this is the “transportation model” developed by mathematical statisticians for solving a class of managerial problems involving the optimum allocation of resources over a set of means to attain a set of ends (Churchman et al. 1957, pp. 283-292; Ferber & Verdoorn 1962, pp. 190-194). However, even if we grant intrinsic rationality, considerations of consumer behavior and route location make it clear that no simple model is adequate and that only highly elaborated complex models will make many aspects of transportation appear rational (Garrison I960; Haggett 1965, pp. 24-25, 32-33).

In one sense, transportation systems in operation are reflections of the decisions and actions of individuals with optional means of movement. The resultant complexities can be illustrated by considering the resident of a large metropolis who must travel to work. While public rapid transit is most economical both of time and of money, large and increasing proportions of suburbanites drive to work in private automobiles despite the high and rising personal and social costs (Elias et al. 1964, pp. 150-165; Gottmann 1961, pp. 631-690; Smith 1959, pp. 20-24; Great Britain 1963). This behavior is not necessarily a result of ignorance or irrationality. Other explanations are suggested by the finding that among Chicago suburbanites an average payment of 20 cents a trip would be required to divert 37 per cent of the drivers to a public transit system for the trip to work (U.S. Congress 1962, p. 49). For example, social prestige may be at stake. However, in what fashion? Does nondriving diminish prestige, or does driving increase it? This example illustrates some of the major difficulties of rationalistic models in dealing with the behavioral aspects of transportation. Nonfiscal and nontemporal considerations— comfort, convenience, prestige, and so forth—are unidentified or difficult to quantify in comparable units of measurement (Lang & Soberman 1964, pp. 90-99; Lansing & Mueller 1964, pp. 63-95).

Rationally, routes would follow lines that minimize the time and money costs of distance. In a homogeneous passable environment, they would be straight lines (Taaffe 1956). Environmental difficulties will of course induce various deviations for different means of transportation. However, transportation routes and the networks they comprise deviate from minimal distance arrangements even more than environmental and technical considerations demand. If route location is viewed as the outcome of free competition for available desirable space, a number of other considerations are suggested (Mayer 1944). For example, competitors with greater power may force route deviations for reasons not basically relevant to transportation, such as fear of noise or dirt nuisances. Prior property rights sustained by social tradition may result in circuitous routes. Road improvements in downtown Boston, for example, are hindered by the location of Boston Common and various historic sites (Firey 1945), and in the American Midwest local roads run largely at right angles owing to the original principles of surveying and parceling out land in quarter sections. The intrusion of historical residues, differential social power, and conflicting social values into a situation already complicated by environmental, technological, and economic considerations can result in transportation routes and networks that have no visible rationality (Levin 1950).

Competition for space. In the competition for scarce, valuable space, the effectiveness of the transportation sector varies. Transportation enterprises, having great financial resources, are usually able to claim space as desired in inexpensive open areas. The greater the density, the more intense the use, and the greater the number and variety of competitors, the less advantaged are transportation enterprises in the competition (Wingo 1961). In the city these conditions coalesce, and transportation is therefore at its greatest disadvantage. Nonetheless, it has been reported, from an analysis of land-use studies conducted in 53 American cities between 1935 and 1952, that streets and railroads occupy 33 per cent of the available space (Bartholomew 1955, p. 170, table 3). If this estimate had also included space used for bus depots, offices, airports, docks, and the wider rights of way of modern streets and expressways, the proportion would have been considerably larger. Under these circumstances, the success of transportation services in satisfying additional space needs might force out the other land users who generate these needs. Moreover, to the extent that transportation reduces the supply of space available to other consumers, it increases their willingness and need to commit greater resources to the competition for space. This suggests that the space demands of transportation in the large city have generated an unstable disequilibrium that is not portrayed adequately by a simple rational model. Any apparent stability is often a historical legacy of an uneconomic pattern that has been frozen because of the large investments committed and the sheer difficulty of destruction and construction in the central city.

Systematization. The fixity of routes is but one aspect of the patterned order of transportation systems; orderliness is also reflected in priorities of user claims in any given system, and temporal cycles in the amount and composition of traffic (Foley 1954; Mitchell & Rapkin 1954, pp. 20-177). Generally, the more restricted and expensive a path, the more regular, restricted, and patterned is the movement of vehicles in a system. Cyclical changes in traffic magnitude and composition are a function of such interrelated factors as requirements of cargoes; conventional desires and customs of passengers as to travel conditions and timing; and daily or seasonal changes in such factors as hours of daylight, climate, and weather. The over-all systematization of transportation arises from the interaction among the aforementioned constraints; the concern of management with protecting property and regular returns on large investments; and the general social demand for reliable, dependable, and usable transportation systems.

Transportation and social control

A system of transportation, like any other kind of system, cannot work without rules; moreover, the rules have to be enforced. This has been true throughout history; but modern nations resort to legal codes and formally constituted administering and enforcing agencies to a much greater degree than was once the case. The more expensive, complex, and potentially dangerous the technology and the more socially significant the system, the greater the likelihood that every aspect of the system will be subject to such control (Meyer et al. 1959, pp. 203-273; U.S. Congress 1961). As nations have developed, folkways, mores, customs, and conventions covering such system aspects as rights of way, maintenance of way, and direction of travel have been reinforced by formal laws. The variability in the thoroughness with which laws cover system operation is considerable. For example, walking and bicycling seem like free movement in contrast to railroading, where every aspect of operation is covered by law. Nonetheless, such laws as those which regulate street crossing, walking on expressways and bridges, and rights of way at intersections assure that even relatively free systems operate in an adequately orderly and predictable fashion (see Labatut & Lane 1950).

The agencies of control span the range from police agencies and ordinary multifunctional courts that enforce and punish transgressions of laws governing the relatively free systems to independent, complex, interlocking bureaucratic agencies that administer rules governing the more completely controlled systems (U.S. Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations 1961). As societies grow in size and complexity and become increasingly dependent on transportation for survival, control has moved from the sphere of the informal and individual to that of the formal and social. As the major representative of the public interest, government has often assumed not only control rights but also ownership of public transportation facilities (Bauer & Costello 1950, pp. 230-260). This has occurred even in societies that are otherwise ideologically committed to free enterprise economies. At a minimum, streets and highways are almost always owned by governments. In addition, it is not uncommon for some or all rail, air, and maritime transportation to be operated under government ownership.

The importance of control in maintaining and insuring dependable transportation is also indicated by the pattern of penalties invoked for the transgression of rules and operating failures. While extreme and unusual, the former practice of hanging horse thieves in the American West is vivid testimony to this concern. In another vein, the varied legal powers invested in ship captains, airplane pilots, and railroad conductors are unmatched in other roles involving responsibility for operating complex machinery. Business failures in transportation are also handled differently: whereas most other failing businesses can dissolve, bankrupt transportation enterprises usually must be reorganized. Frequently the government will assume ownership at this point.

Social consequences. The manifest functions of any transportation system are to move goods and persons. From the perspective of users, since such movement is costly, these functions are rarely viewed this narrowly. Rather, they are viewed in conjunction with motives—the ends for which transportation activities are undertaken. Commonly recognized ends involve all aspects of human life: the economic, political, military, social, and so forth (Cooley 1894). In essence, regardless of whether actual movement produces intended ends, transportation systems are ordinarily considered facilitating agents for integrating or maintaining society. Raw materials are moved to factories, manufactured goods to markets, troops and military supplies to threatened borders or vulnerable sectors of enemy land, labor surpluses to labor shortage areas, and so on. There seems little doubt that the social role ascribed to transportation is a highly valued one.

It is not uncommon to describe transportation innovations as “revolutionary.” Judgments of this kind depend largely on hindsight, since it is the range and magnitude of unanticipated consequences that strike the imagination. The automobile, for example, is credited with initiating and sustaining ^metropolitan decentralization, fragmenting the family, strangling central cities, increasing sexual promiscuity, creating a significant new source of mortality, and much more. Expanding railroad nets have been given credit variously for the settlement and integration of many nations, including the United States. William F. Ogburn (1946) argued that changes from horse and wagon to railroad, from railroad to automobile, and finally from automobile to airplane have repeatedly reduced the number and enlarged the sizes of areas of urban dominance, thus altering the entire structure of the hierarchical system of cities (see also Ogburn et al. 1946).

The unanticipated consequences of the more subtle aspects of transportation may be equally significant. In the United States the first telling blow against segregation occurred when the federal government used its reserved right to control interstate commerce as license to end segregated seating and service in all facilities employed in such movement. On the international level, national dependencies on international trade and travel have produced cooperative agreements and discourse on many transportation problems between otherwise hostile governments.

This brief scanning of the many diverse consequences of transportation systems only suggests how widely transportation infiltrates almost all aspects of social life. In so doing, it clarifies the repeated convergence of interest in transportation among professionals in all the social sciences.

Joel Smith

[See also Central Place; City, articles on METROPOLITAN GOVERNMENT and on COMPARATIVE URBAN STRUCTURE Planning, Social, article On REGIONAL AND URBAN PLANNING Regional SCIENCE Spatial ECONOMICS.]


Alonso, William 1964 Location and Land Use: Toward a General Theory of Land Rent. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press.

Bartholomew, Harland 1955 Land Uses in American Cities. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press.

Bauer, John; and Costello, Peter 1950 Transit Modernization and Street Traffic Control: A Program of Municipal Responsibility and Administration. Chicago: Public Administration Service.

Breese, Gerald W. 1949 The Daytime Population of the Central Business District of Chicago: With Particular Reference to the Factor of Transportation. Univ. of Chicago Press.

Brew, John O. 1950 The Highway and the Anthropologist. Pages 3-9 in Jean Labatut and Wheaton J. Lane (editors), Highways in Our National Life: A Symposium. Princeton Univ. Press.

Childe, V. Gordon (1942) 1960 What Happened in History. Rev. ed. Baltimore: Penguin.

Chinitz, Benjamin 1960 Freight and the Metropolis: The Impact of America’s Transport Revolutions on the New York Region. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press.

Churchman, Charles W.; Ackoff, Russell L.; and Arnoff, E. Leonard (1957) 1961 Introduction to Operations Research. New York: Wiley.

Cooley, Charles H. (1894)1930 The Theory of Transportation. Pages 15-118 in Charles H. Cooley, Sociological Theory and Social Research, Being the Selected Papers of Charles Horton Cooley. With an introduction and notes by Robert Cooley Angell. New York: Holt.

Cottrell, W. F. 1951 Death by Dieselization: A Case Study in the Reaction to Technological Change. American Sociological Review 16:358-365.

Elias, C. E. Jr.; Gillies, James; and Riemer, Svend (editors) 1964 Metropolis: Values in Conflict. Belmont, Calif.-. Wadsworth.

Ferber, Robert; and Verdoorn, P. J. 1962 Research Methods in Economics and Business. New York: Macmillan.

Firey, Walter I. 1945 Sentiment and Symbolism as Ecological Variables. American Sociological Review 10:140-148.

Foley, Donald L. 1954 Urban Daytime Population: A Field for Demographic-Ecological Analysis. Social Forces 32:323-330.

Garrison, William L. 1960 Connectivity of the Interstate Highway System. Regional Science Association, Papers and Proceedings 6:121-137.

Gilmore, Harlan W. 1953 Transportation and the Growth of Cities. Glencoe, Iii.: Free Press.

Gottmann, Jean (1961)1964 Megalopolis: The Urbanized Northeastern Seaboard of the United States. Cambridge, Mass.: M.I.T. Press.

Great Britain, Ministry Of Transport 1963 Traffic in Towns: A Study of the Long-term Problems of Traffic in Urban Areas. London: H.M. Stationery Office.

Greer, Scott 1961 Traffic, Transportation, and Problems of the Metropolis. Pages 605-650 in Robert K. Merton and Robert A. Nisbet (editors), Contemporary Social Problems. New York: Harcourt.

Haggett, Peter 1965 Locational Analysis in Human Geography. New York: St. Martins.

Isard, Walter 1956 Location and Space-economy: A General Theory Relating to Industrial Location, Market Areas, Trade and Urban Structure. Cambridge, Mass.: Technology Press of M.I.T.; New York: Wiley.

Kain, John F. 1962 The Journey-to-work as a Determinant of Residential Location. Regional Science Association, Papers and Proceedings 9:137-160.

Kansky, K. J. 1963 Structure of Transportation Networks: Relationships Between Network Geometry and Regional Characteristics. University of Chicago, Department of Geography, Research Paper No. 84. Univ. of Chicago Press.

Labatut, Jean; and Lane, Wheaton J. (editors) 1950 Highways in Our National Life: A Symposium. Princeton Univ. Press.

Lang, A. Scheffer; and Soberman, Richard M. 1964 Urban Rail Transit: Its Economics and Technology. Cambridge, Mass.: M.I.T. Press.

Lansing, John B.; and Mueller, Eva 1964 Residential Location and Urban Mobility. Ann Arbor: Univ. of Michigan, Institute for Social Research, Survey Research Center.

Levin, David R. 1950 The Permanence of the Right of Way in a Changing Environment. Pages 281-289 in Jean Labatut and Wheaton J. Lane (editors), Highways in Our National Life: A Symposium. Princeton Univ. Press.

Liepmann, Kate K. (1944)1945 The Journey to Work: Its Significance for Industrial and Community Life. London: Routledge.

Mayer, Harold M. 1944 Localization of Railway Facilities in Metropolitan Centers as Typified by Chicago. Journal of Land and Public Utility Economics 20:299-315.

Meyer, John R. et al. (1959) 1964 The Economics of Competition in the Transportation Industries. Harvard Economic Studies, Vol. 107. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press.

Mitchell, Robert B.; and Rapkin, Chester 1954 Urban Traffic: A Function of Land Use. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

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O’dell, Andrew C. 1956 Railways and Geography. London: Hutchinson’s University Library.

Ogburn, William F. 1946 Inventions of Local Transportation and the Patterns of Cities. Social Forces 24:373-379.

Ogburn, William F.; Adams, Jean L.; Gilfillan, S. C. 1946 The Social Effects of Aviation. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Smith, Joel 1959 Some Social Aspects of Mass Transit in Selected American Cities. Institute for Community Development and Services, Special Research Monograph No. 1. East Lansing: Michigan State University.

Taaffe, Edward J. 1956 Air Transportation and United States Urban Distribution. Geographical Review 46: 219-238.

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A most salient economic characteristic of transportation throughout the world is that the provision of transportation services is almost invariably a matter of substantial public concern. In the United States this is reflected by the fact, among others, that transportation was the first industry to be subjected to formal government regulation and Is still probably the most stringently regulated industry within the American economy. In the rest of the world the more direct approach of outright government ownership often has been adopted. Government ownership is, in fact, more the rule than the exception in rail and airline operations outside the United States.

The distinction between nationalized and regulated transportation industries, however, can easily be overemphasized. It is remarkable, in fact, how similar the public complaints about transportation difficulties are in western Europe, with heavily nationalized transportation industries, and the United States, with no government ownership. The pronouncements by government officials, the comments by financial pundits, and the critiques made in the business press are strikingly similar under the different sets of circumstances. In a sense this is not too surprising. Obviously, regulation and government ownership are somewhat interchangeable devices for achieving public goals or aspirations. Indeed, it is surely significant that the United States, which has more formal government regulation of almost all business activities and requires considerably more exposure of private business affairs to public scrutiny than almost any other country, is also less prone to desire public ownership of economic facilities. [See Nationalization; Regulation of Industry.]

The similarities of transportation problems in different parts of the world also derive from the simple fact that the same basic factors almost invariably influence transportation economics and policy, and these influences are essentially invariant whether the industry is nationalized or privately owned. They are, moreover, at work in all modes of transportation to a greater or lesser degree. Accordingly, understanding and devising appropriate policy solutions for transportation problems under almost any circumstances involve analyzing the effects of these fundamental influences.

Essentiality. Probably the most important overall consideration is the idea that there is something inherently essential about transport services. This essentiality has been expressed in many different ways. In newly industrializing societies, for example, transportation is spoken of as being part of the “infrastructure” that is prerequisite to proper industrial and economic development [see Capital, Social Overhead]. In the more advanced parts of the world the concept of social need or social service is often invoked in connection with transportation. In both cases the notion is, simply, that transportation is somehow more basic to the proper Conduct of economic and social affairs than are most other activities.

The logic of this special concern with transportation derives from the circumstance that if transportation services are suspended, it is usually difficult to conduct other activities. As well as intrinsic essentiality, this reflects that transportation is a service and therefore not storable. Indeed, the argument can legitimately be made that there are many other needs that are almost equally essential to society but, since they are storable, their suspension is not so immediately damaging. In short, it is the fact that transportation is both a service and essential that brings it to the special attention of governments. In this sense, transportation is in a special category shared by only a few other economic activities, such as the provision of medical services and the public utilities that supply gas and electricity.

Transportation is, of course, also an important economic activity in and of itself. Establishing precise estimates of the volume of expenditures for transportation is difficult in most Western economies, mainly because so much of it is conducted by very small private concerns or by business firms as an adjunct to their principal manufacturing or commercial activities. Such undertakings are difficult to reflect in national income accounts and statistics. However, making duly rough allowances and ignoring expenditures made on private automobile transportation, it would appear that the provision of transportation services consumes somewhere between 5 and 10 per cent of gross national product in most advanced industrialized countries. Add in the amounts spent on private automobile transportation, and these figures would be considerably larger, particularly in the United States; and, needless to say, every year this private automobile expenditure has tended to increase in most Western countries. In less developed countries transport investments can account for 40 per cent or more of the total public investment budget.

The problem of peak demand. A dominant technological and economic feature of most transportation systems is that their service capacities are fully utilized only a small fraction of the total time that they must usually be available. Rush hours or peak periods normally set the pattern for the whole transportation system. Capacity is designed or engineered to meet these peak demands; and it is this characteristic, more than any other, that usually establishes basic boundaries to possible economies of operation in transportation.

Unbalanced use of capacity is most obvious in urban passenger transportation systems that often receive well over 50 per cent of their use during only 25 or 30 of the 168 hours in the week. While not quite so apparent, this is almost equally true of most other transportation activities. For example, intercity passenger travel tends to increase significantly in holiday or vacation periods.

Freight operations also display pronounced “peaking.” For example, agricultural products generally tend to move in greatest volume shortly after harvest, and harvests are not spread uniformly throughout the year even in a large continental country like the United States, which has a rather wide range of climatic conditions. Timber and forest product shipments are subject to much the same set of considerations, and climate also plays a significant role in clustering nonagricultural bulk shipments of such commodities as coal and iron and other ores.

Even general merchandise shipments have reasonably pronounced seasonal characteristics. For obvious reasons merchandise movements tend to precede peak sales periods, and Americans and Europeans confine a very considerable amount of their shopping activity to the months just before Christmas, Easter, and the return to school. Similarly, many important lines of industrial production tend to take place only in certain months of the year, with an accompanying unevenness in the demands they place on transportation of material inputs and finished product outputs. Furthermore, even if production activity is dispersed over the year in a reasonably uniform fashion, general merchandise shippers, as every rail and truck traffic manager knows, often want to send their loads out in the evening, shortly after the conventional workday is finished, and expect it to arrive, even at somewhat distant points, early the next morning, before work begins. One result, of course, is to overload carriers’ merchandise handling facilities in the early evening and morning hours.

Solutions. Imbalances are not difficult to handle, of course, if the peaks occur at different times of the year and if the same equipment can be used for meeting different demands. While transportation operators are constantly searching for ways to balance their operations, solutions are rarely discoverable in sufficient measure to completely eliminate all peaking problems. Furthermore, they can seldom be eliminated without paying a price in the form of higher operating costs. Specifically, equipment with more uses usually has performance characteristics inferior to that which is highly specialized. The tendency, in fact, under modern conditions of considerable competition between different modes of transportation, is toward greater use of specialized equipment to reduce costs and, even more importantly in many instances, to improve service.

Any device that would permit storage or discretionary postponement of transport services would, of course, help ameliorate demand imbalances. Indeed, it is this very factor of nonstorability, typical of all services, that gives rise to the inability to utilize available transport capacity more effectively. Storability of transportation, however, is not completely impossible but, rather, is a matter of degree. For example, larger manufacturing and retail inventories are one obvious method of storing freight transportation. Similarly, any act that can induce people to travel before or after peak demands is one way of “storing” passenger travel.

In fact, any device that increases off-peak or decreases on-peak use of a transport system often will be economically beneficial. One obvious way of attempting to correct or eliminate imbalance by economic methods is to charge different rates for use of a transport facility in different seasons or at different times of the day, that is, to practice “price discrimination.” For example, persons using urban transit during commuter rush hours might be charged discouragingly high rates, while business was encouraged by lower fares during the slack daytime hours, say from 9 A.M. to 4 P.M. (Urban transit is, incidentally, a splendid example of the situation, so common in passenger transportation, in which the demand peaking problem is intensified by the fact that it is usually impossible or uneconomic to curtail services severely during all off-peak periods, so that extra operating and capital costs are created by the bunching of demands.) It is probably politically unrealistic, though, to think that price discrimination can be instituted in many situations where no historical pattern of price discrimination has been established. Furthermore, there are often serious administrative problems involved in using price discrimination. It is also not always obvious that a price reduction in off-peak periods will bring in enough new business to offset losses caused by charging lower fares for already existing off-peak travel.

Technological means of fitting available capacity more closely to demands can often be implemented at surprisingly little cost in either capital or performance characteristics. For example, the pronounced peaking of some urban commuter traffic suggests that many new urban throughways should be designed to include reversible lanes. Another excellent example of a technological device for improving capacity utilization is the use of deflatable neoprene bags for converting truck trailers or rail boxcars to tank trucks or tank cars.

In general, an important implication of traffic peaking is that any decision on what constitutes the most efficient or economical form of transportation will depend heavily on the uses to which the facility can be put during off-peak periods. For example, a major economic disadvantage of urban rail rapid transit is that it usually has few alternative off-peak uses. By contrast, an urban highway is likely to be heavily used by noncommuting traffic during off-peak hours. Another important implication of peaking is that it puts a premium on being able to adapt service offerings to needs or demands. In this connection, ubiquity, flexibility, and a small basic unit of operation are advantageous. Thus, the commercial bus with unit loads of about 50 passengers and airplanes with between 50 and 150 seats clearly have a divisibility advantage over rail passenger operations, which normally are uneconomic for loads much under 200. Both the bus and the airline have, moreover, greater geographic coverage than rail does. The net effect is much greater adaptability in tailoring capacity provided to capacity needed. Similarly, much of any truck advantage over rail boxcar in the moving of general merchandise results from the greater coverage and divisibility of truck operations, which permit provision of a better quality of service at a lower cost at many less central points.

Over-all systems. Another basic tenet of transportation economics is that every form of transportation has certain inherent technological and economic advantages and disadvantages, so it is a very rare situation in which it can be said that one transportation form is uniquely superior to all others. Because of the complexities of integrating different technologies into a cohesive entity, designing the most efficient over-all system usually is considerably more complex than simply identifying and adding together the most efficient techniques for performing each subfunction; that is, the advantages of greater efficiency in performing a particular function can often be dissipated in high costs of integration into a complete system. (Another important implication is that cost-finding procedures used in the United States by transport regulatory agencies and courts reviewing regulatory proceedings are almost invariably oversimplified, since they rarely look at the transport function as a complete system when making cost comparisons.) Among the more important considerations in designing an efficient over-all transport and distribution system are (1) the total volume of traffic to be carried; (2) the geographic distribution or dispersion of traffic over points of origin and termination; and (3) the rate of technological change or development expected in the near future.

The volume and dispersion questions arise because, as already noted, different transport systems differ sharply in their divisibility, flexibility, and geographic coverage. These differences are functions of several considerations. For example, a rail system is generally considered (not always with full justification) to involve a relatively large overhead investment in highly specialized and relatively indivisible capital equipment, while commercial highway transport does not (at least not on private account, because the highway investments are made by public agencies). The larger the volume of business, therefore, the more likely it is that rail installations can spread their capital costs thinly enough so as not to make them unduly burdensome. Moreover, once rail overhead costs fall below those of competitive technologies, a rail system is usually the more efficient because its direct operating costs per unit of service provided are usually somewhat below the comparable costs of other systems (though not nearly as far below, especially if service considerations are held constant, as is often believed). The rail operating-cost advantage accrues mainly from the fact that rail requires less labor per unit of transportation service performed than do most other forms of carriage. However, this labor advantage is found only in the performance of actual line-hauls—that is, between geographic points—ignoring the costs of getting the load onto and off the vehicle. In fact, loading and unloading usually will be at least as expensive by rail as by other modes, and often more expensive. To be precise, rail uses a good deal of capital and relatively little labor per unit of line-haul output of transport services and tends to be relatively inefficient in originating and terminating shipments.

An important consequence is that in areas of extremely high traffic density, rail usually will have an efficiency advantage as long as relatively long hauls must be made. On the other hand, with short-distance shipments the cost advantage of rail in line hauling may be offset by a cost disadvantage in loading and unloading.

Expectations about technological change influence choices between different forms of transportation because the different modes usually use capital equipment of different durability. Thus, if one extrapolates a rapid development of new technology, less durable investments will be favored, everything else being equal. In general, the more specialized and capital-intensive rail technologies usually involve more durable capital equipment than do other transportation systems. It is difficult, of course, to know with any degree of accuracy what the future holds. However, it should be noted that if all other considerations are about equal— e.g., operating and overhead costs—then the less durable investment provides more room for maneuver or adaptation if the future will be characterized by substantial improvements in transportation technology.

In sum, good systems designs in transportation are not readily identifiable and, above all, are impossible on the basis of isolated comparisons between different system components. Nor are simple static comparisons based on rigidly fixed and unimaginative assumptions about technological capabilities likely to be productive of the best results. In particular, volume and geographic dispersion must be considered in system design, because they crucially influence the scale of operations possible at particular geographic points and the relative weights to be placed on different cost characteristics. While general principles can be stated fairly easily, actually finding the best blend of different transportation technologies to serve a particular purpose at a particular point in time is likely to be a highly complicated task, and almost invariably must be based upon some uncertain forecasts about the future. Perhaps the only reasonably certain factor is that the best scheme usually will involve synthesizing some elements of different technologies and rarely will comprehend the application of one specific or pure technology to an entire transportation problem.

Subsidization. A third fundamental of transportation economics is that the operation of almost any transportation system will involve subsidizing some customers at the expense of others; that is, some customers will pay less than the costs (either long-run incremental or full) of the services that they consume while others will pay substantially more. Such an outcome is an almost inevitable result of the complexities of determining costs of the wide diversity of services normally offered in most transportation operations, and of the administrative difficulties associated with any effort to apply different charges to every individual customer. The fact that many transportation services are considered, rightly or wrongly, as “socially necessary” and therefore potentially as justifying government subsidy only heightens these tendencies. Informal “cross-subsidization” of the socially desired services by charging more than costs for other services is often considered politically more expedient than direct government subsidy. However, direct government subsidies are occasionally used, as with local service airlines and many urban transit services in the United States, and they are an obvious method of subsidizing one transport activity without recourse to charging substantially more than costs for another.

Whether direct government subsidy or cross-subsidies are used, the net result of conducting some transport activities at a loss is, usually, an income transfer from one group in society to another. Income redistributions effected by government action are, of course, not uncommon in democratic or, for that matter, in other societies. In democratic societies, though, decisions to make income transfers are generally considered the subject for the fullest sort of political consideration or public discussion. It is therefore highly pertinent that income transfers effected through transportation operations are seldom even recognized or defined, let alone submitted to decision by normal political processes. All too often such income transfers tend to be the rather capricious and accidental effect of the day-to-day workings and historical patterns of development of the transportation system. Obviously, this is particularly true of situations where cross-subsidies within transportation operations occur. However, the same is true to only a slightly lesser degree in most instances of direct government subsidy. These have usually developed in a piecemeal fashion over time and very often are given to a transport system as an entity, with only vague recognition of the exact purposes for which they are intended. Furthermore, because direct subsidies historically have developed mainly after cross-subsidy schemes have failed, the direct subsidies are normally superimposed on an existing and confused scheme of cross-subsidies.

In the United States there are several identifiable examples of income transfer attributable to transportation functions. Probably the most important quantitatively is that people living in rural locations and using lightly traveled highways, railroads, and airlines almost always pay less than the full cost of the services they utilize, with the difference being financed by returns above costs on operations between or within large urban centers. For example, short-distance passengers on local service commercial airlines are almost invariably transported at a loss, with the subsidy being rendered either directly by government or indirectly from earnings on the carriage of passengers traveling longer distances. From a purely commercial view, moreover, urban highways in and around the major cities of most states tend to be the “breadwinning investments” that finance most state highway departments, in the sense that state gasoline and other highway user charges realized from travel over urban highways far exceed the capital and maintenance costs on such facilities; the contrary is usually true of rural secondary roads.

Many other examples could be cited of income transfers that are effected by transport operations. Obviously, to a large extent these transfers are a reflection of the fact that transportation produces a very large variety of slightly differentiated outputs, many of which are by-products of other operations. Making an accurate assessment of the costs of rendering these many different services, and therefore of taxes and transfers effected by them, would be extremely difficult. Even identifying all transfers would be a quite complex chore.

Even without definitive information, however, it seems highly improbable that there is a particular logic or pattern to these income transfers. For example, it might be considered comforting if it could be proved that transportation operations result in a transfer of income from the rich to the poor on the widely accepted political premise that such transfers are advantageous in a democratic society. Such simple solace is difficult to justify, however, because many of the income transfers that can be identified from transportation operations actually result in a quite contrary redistribution. For instance, rail commuters into large cities sometimes do not pay even the direct operating costs of the services that they consume, and they normally represent at least a slightly above-average group of income recipients in their societies. There are, of course, probably some income transfers effected by transport operations that are progressive in character. Furthermore, some regressive transfers may be incidental to achieving other socially desired ends, such as bringing geographically isolated areas into closer contact with the rest of the nation. Still, more explicit treatment and recognition might be afforded to these transfers and their relationship to social objectives.

Quality of service. A fourth basic characteristic of transportation economics, actually implicit in the preceding discussion, is that defining a product or service provided by transportation agencies is an exceedingly difficult matter, involving comparison of several different and often incommensurate qualities or dimensions of service. This holds, moreover, both when dealing in inanimate items such as freight cargo and when considering the highly animate human cargo involved in passenger transportation.

Overlooking this factor of product or service differentiation is one of the most common fallacies to be found in transportation analyses. For example, railroad traffic managers in virtually all parts of the world have been prone to ignore the fact that rail transportation of general merchandise usually differs substantially in several important service characteristics from truck transportation. This, in turn, has led them into the very serious error of thinking that they could compete with truck transportation on a simple basis of rate parity. Under a regime of equal rates for rail and truck transportation, the almost inevitable result is a steady erosion of traffic away from rail to highways because several important cost savings are effected by the better service provided by highway transport. Truck operators have been quick to recognize their service advantage and have been only too willing to set their rates equal to rail rates as long as the rail rates were above the truckers’ relevant costs. The result has been aptly described as the holding of a “rail rate umbrella” over the competing truck rates; the “rate umbrella,” of course, protects truckers against railroad competition.

The fallacy of ignoring service differentials also bedevils discussion of urban transportation. Specifically, much has been made of the fact that several forms of public transit, particularly rail transit, are cheaper than private automobile transportation in urban areas. From this observation, the conclusion has commonly been derived that individuals who use private automobiles as a form of urban transportation are obviously foolish and have not really understood the price that they are paying for insisting on the use of their cars. Rarely, though, are these comparisons of public and private urban transportation costs adorned by any accompanying comparison of the relative qualities of the different transportation modes. Absent is any mention of such factors as relative schedule flexibility, the degree to which different modes will provide a complete door-to-door service, the comparative comforts and privacy of private and public transportation, and the speed with which different modes can complete an entire commuter trip. These omissions are all the more perverse because the rapid spread of automobile ownership throughout the Western world, despite the substantial costs involved, would seem to be explainable only in terms of widespread indulgence of conspicuous consumption or of rational pursuit of a superior transportation service. While conspicuous consumption has probably played a role, it seems highly doubtful that it can provide a complete explanation of the popularity of automobile ownership or justify the costs of such ownership to the large number of consumers now in possession of such vehicles.

The rise of the commercial airliner in supplantation of the railroad is also explicable partly in terms of service improvements. The airliner obviously has a substantial speed and often a comfort advantage over rail. These qualities apparently are highly valued by the business traveler, who constitutes a remarkably large percentage of the market for first-class intercity public passenger transportation.

Several important quality dimensions can also be identified in freight services. Among the more important are speed, gentleness (in the sense of limited damage while en route), the size of the shipment that can be conveniently accommodated, and the timing of departures and arrivals. Service performances in freight transportation, in very large measure, can be translated into rather specific cost savings in other parts of the production or distribution process. For example, greater speed and smaller unit sizes for each shipment are desirable because normally they will effect a reduction in the cost of holding inventories. Gentleness quite obviously has favorable effects on insurance, packing, and related costs. Proper timing of arrivals and departures can be advantageous by permitting a reduction in inventory, warehousing, and production labor costs.

In sum, several subtle interrelationships are observable between different transportation service characteristics and ability to perform or effect cost savings in other parts of the production processes. Their existence re-emphasizes the importance of analyzing transportation characteristics in a broad systems approach or context. The essential advantage of superior transport service is that it permits modifications elsewhere, in patterns of living, production, and distribution, that either reduce economic costs or directly increase the satisfactions of individual consumers.

John R. Meyer

[See also Prices, article on PRICING POLICIES; Regulation or Industry.]


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Cherington, Paul W. 1958 Airline Price Policy: A Study of Domestic Airline Passenger Fares. Boston: Harvard Univ., Graduate School of Business Administration.

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Commutation refers primarily to the daily movement of the employed person between residence and workplace. The term is sometimes applied to daily trips between home and school and to weekend trips between city and country residences. More often, however, it is restricted to the journey to work, and this is the meaning adopted in the following discussion. When such work-related movements are viewed in the aggregate, they can be studied from two points of view: as dispersal from the dwelling area or as confluence at the workplace. These movements impart a distinct rhythm to the daily life of the modern urban community, displaying a temporal regularity that is closely related to the spatial order, or land use pattern.

History. Commutation is essentially a modern development, dating from the rise of the factory system in the course of the industrial revolution. Earlier periods were characterized by a virtual identity between residence and workplace. The home was the place of work for the vast majority of the population engaged in handicraft production. It was only as agriculturalists traveled short distances each day between centrally located village residences and outlying fields that any regular daily movement took place.

The industrial revolution brought about massive changes in land use, especially within cities. Centrally located workplaces, powered by inanimate forms of energy, came to employ dozens and even hundreds of workers. The decline of “cottage industries” and similar forms of production meant a sharp separation between home and work. At first, the dwellings of workers were clustered near the factories in tenements and other high-density arrangements, and the trip to work was correspondingly short. With progressive improvements in intraurban transportation—including horse-drawn vehicles, electric trolleys, steam railways, and the automobile—the work trip lengthened substantially, and it became common for the worker to reside at a considerable distance from his job. The labor market thus came to be widely extended in space.

In its contemporary form, the zone of commutation extends far beyond the limits of the modern city itself. Outlying places—"bedroom towns” or “dormitory cities”—contain large numbers of people who regularly commute to the central metropolis and other major employment centers. With the decline of agriculture as a source of employment in industrial nations, a large number of part-time farmers and other rural residents participate in the daily ebb and flow of commuters to the city. In addition to the main streams of worker traffic, flowing centripetally from peripheral areas and converging on the main center, there is considerable lateral motion, represented by crosscurrents of movement between outlying homes and workplaces. Modern transportation has meant that commutation has tended to supplement and even to supplant migration as a means of adjustment to shifts in the location of job opportunities in the more advanced countries. Commutation is virtually unknown in the nonindus trial nations of the world, although seasonal migration provides an approximate counterpart.

The study of commutation. Commutation may be analyzed from the standpoint of the individual commuter, his family, or that of the community as a whole. Some attention has been directed toward the possibility of rather severe physiological and psychological strain upon individual employees who must travel long distances to work. The cost of transportation to work also enters into analyses of family budgets, where it often represents a major class of expenditures. Far more attention, however, has been focused upon commuting as an aggregate phenomenon, amenable to study and interpretation in the context of the community at large.

Within sociology, human ecologists have accorded commuting the greatest amount of attention. The human ecologist regards the regular systole and diastole that it generates as prime evidence of a temporal order in the collective life of the modern community. Moreover, the human ecologist sees this circulatory movement as linked to the general pattern of land uses in the community. The separation of home and work itself implies a rudimentary segregation of dissimilar land uses, and it is postulated that the continued functioning of the modern community as a whole requires the regular exchange of persons between spatially separate areas. The differentiated pattern of land uses is seen as expressive of the interdependence of the various specialized activities carried on within the community. Moreover, the maintenance of the existing equilibrium is assumed to depend upon the dynamic mechanism of recurrent movements, including commutation, but also to encompass other flows and exchanges of people, goods, and information.

Commutation and land use. One can think of the modern urban community area as divided into three broad types of land use—industrial, commercial, and residential. From the standpoint of commuting to work, the first two types (industrial and commercial) reduce to one, for they are essentially attracting areas, with daily streams of commuters flowing into them. In contrast, residential areas are dispersing areas—reservoirs of manpower, so to speak—containing the dwelling places of those who go out to staff the enterprises located in other parts of the community. Thus the community can be abstractly viewed as containing only two types of areas—employing and residential—and workers flow between these areas in visible, measurable streams. One can examine these streams from the standpoint of their size (the sheer number of workers involved), their orientations (centripetal, centrifugal, lateral), and their composition (e.g., their occupational make-up). One can also examine the relationship between these broad characteristics of commuter movements and characteristics of communities. Finally, one can examine trends over time in various aspects of commuting.

Sources of data. Because commutation is not a universal practice, most of what we know about it comes from studies recently conducted in modern urban-industrial countries. Not only is the phenomenon limited in time and space, but the very means for observing and measuring it are confined to a relative handful of nations. There are four general sources of information on commuting that have proved to be useful to social scientists interested in the problem: transit statistics, which include ticket sales and traffic counts on “mass” means of conveyance; employer records, which may be supplemented by special interviews at the workplace; origin-and-destination traffic surveys, wherein a sample population is queried concerning vehicular movements; and periodic censuses. Each of these sources of data exhibits peculiarities making it appropriate for a different type of inquiry. Moreover, not all sources are available for every geographic area, so that our knowledge is extremely uneven. For example, the 1960 census of population in the United States was the first in American census history to include questions on workplace and method of travel to work; in contrast, many European countries have included such items in their census schedules for some years. The German census of 1900 included a question on workplace. In general, the origin-and-destination survey is an American development, while European studies have placed far more reliance on employer records and transit statistics, supplemented by census tabulations. The European materials have been well summarized by Liepmann (1944); for that reason, the following summary draws more heavily upon American studies, for which no comparable synthesis exists.

Research findings. Commuter trips appear to make up about 40 to 50 per cent of all daily vehicular movements in urban areas. More important, they are temporally concentrated; as a consequence, physical facilities must be designed to accommodate peak-hour loads, even though they may be underused at other times (Kain 1967).

The amount of daily movement is such that the distribution of population over the entire urban area is constantly undergoing change. We have come to recognize important differences, for example, between daytime and nighttime population; the latter distribution is the one that is commonly recorded in a de jure census, but certain parts of the urban complex, and especially the central business district and other important employing centers, have daytime population concentrations far exceeding their residential populations. In general, commuter movements flow from widely dispersed residential areas to highly localized concentrations of jobs.

Distance traveled. With respect to distance traveled, there appears to be a direct relationship between it and a person’s socioeconomic status; in other words, the higher the social standing, the longer the journey to work. In part, this is a function of the spatial arrangement of residences by social class; the higher-status groups tend to live at the periphery (at least in larger urban areas), while groups of lower standing tend to occupy the center. Since many of the business and professional people in the upper strata work in the heart of the city, longer trips are required. But central workers seem to travel farther, regardless of their social status, when compared with employees at other sites. Workers at outlying factories, offices, and stores tend to live much nearer their places of employment (Carroll 1952).

Travel time. Despite the differences in the length of the worktrip, the time spent in travel seems to be roughly constant between the various socioeconomic strata and also appears to be about the same regardless of workplace. The explanation is not difficult. The wealthier persons, who travel greater distances, have faster and more flexible means of transportation at their disposal. As for central workers, they enjoy the benefit of mass transit systems which are strongly oriented toward the center; workers at dispersed locations throughout the remainder of the urban area presumably lose considerable time in lateral “cross-town” commuting, despite a shorter average worktrip.

Method of travel. The above matters are considerably clarified when one examines differences in the method of travel employed by different subgroups within the population. By and large, the frequency of automobile travel increases with higher socioeconomic status; there is far less use of mass transit facilities by those in the very highest strata than by those who are less fortunately situated (Kain 1967). Commuting by automobile is not only faster, it is also far more flexible, in the sense that times of departure and arrival are more readily controlled and routes are less fixed. As we have noted, however, workers in central areas make heavier use of mass transit facilities. It appears that the frequency of service to the center offsets the time that would be otherwise sacrificed by the generally slower travel times offered by public transportation. Hence, the disadvantages of commuting by public carrier are largely avoided by central workers.

Individual characteristics. There are other differentials that have been less firmly established by research. There appears to be a difference between the sexes, for example, with employed women (and especially married women) traveling shorter distances than males do. Women also tend to make greater use of public transportation; among employed couples owning only one car, the male tends to drive while the female depends upon mass transit facilities to get to and from work. When workers are compared according to their length of employment, those with higher seniority tend to live nearer, while newer employees travel greater distances. Similarly, younger workers tend to travel farther to work.

Characteristics of communities. Another important class of differentials in commuting has to do with characteristics of communities rather than characteristics of commuters. For example, there is a systematic and positive association between the length of the average work trip and city size. Method of transportation also varies rather consistently with city size (Schnore 1962).

Still another characteristic of the community that appears to be significant is its age. In particular, there is a striking difference between pre-automobile and postautomobile cities. The character of transportation available in the era in which the city “grew up” seems to have implications for patterns of commutation years afterward. Older cities which entered their periods of florescence during the age of mass transit have well-established facilities, but newer cities tend not to install the expensive overhead and underground routes that are needed for efficient mass transportation. As a consequence, one finds 58 per cent of New York workers in 1960 commuting by public transportation, compared with 12 per cent in Los Angeles, a much “younger” city. Similarly, 83 per cent of the persons entering New York’s central business district on a typical weekday in the early 1950s traveled by mass transit; in Los Angeles, this figure was 31 per cent. Such differences have an impact on family budgets; only 8.5 per cent of the total family expenditures in New York went for transportation in 1950, while families in Los Angeles devoted 16.4 per cent of their budgets to this purpose. The importance of the availability of mass transportation is seen in data on automobile registrations; in 1950, Los Angeles had 363 automobiles per 1,000 inhabitants of all ages, while the comparable figure was 152 for New York.

Trends in commutation. Our knowledge of historical trends is rather imprecise because of the absence of bench-mark data for earlier years. Nevertheless, the following assertions can be made with some confidence. There has been a trend in the direction of longer journeys to work as cities have grown and spread; with this increasing commuting distance, the functional boundaries of the community have been extended considerably. Despite improvements in transportation, including greater speed and flexibility, much more time is now spent in commuting than in the past. In fact, the amount of time spent may roughly offset the shortening of the work day that has accompanied the progressive mechanization and rationalization of industry and commerce. The monetary costs of transportation have also increased over time, in the sense that a greater proportion of the family budget is devoted to this class of expenditures. Many costs are hidden, of course, and they elude exact calculation; in addition to the direct costs represented by transit fares and the purchase of vehicles, fuel, and insurance, the indirect costs (such as those incurred in building highway and parking facilities) have mounted enormously (Liepmann 1944). Finally, there is the well-known trend toward greater use of the private automobile in commuting. This is especially easy to document in the United States, where it has received a great deal of publicity, but apparently it is also under way in many other parts of the world where the costs of vehicles and fuels were formerly prohibitive. There is no urban-industrial nation in which automobile ownership has not risen dramatically since World War II and where the commuting driver is not on the increase.

Research needs. The major gaps in our knowledge concerning commutation stem from the limited coverage achieved in the studies that have been conducted. The pressing needs are for more comparative and historical investigations. In the following paragraphs, we will suggest some broad hypotheses and areas of research on which work is required.

Historically, it appears that a shift in the orientation of commuter streams has occurred. One of the features that distinguishes the twentieth-century metropolis from large cities of the past is the ease and rapidity of movement. However, even the smaller cities of the contemporary Western world enjoy the advanced transportation and communication facilities of the metropolis, and thus share this ease of movement. The unique features distinguishing movement in the metropolis appear merely to reflect the enhanced complexity associated with a system of interdependent nuclei. Thus physical movement in the metropolitan area has become much less simple with respect to direction and over-all orientation. In contrast with the simple in-and-out movement between center and periphery of earlier cities, the contemporary metropolitan area appears to have a very high proportion of lateral movements, in complicated crosscurrents and eddies. Commuting, in particular, is not merely a matter of centripetal and centrifugal flows morning and evening, but a confusing compound of variously oriented threads of traffic, superimposed upon the older and rudimentary center-oriented pattern. As the underlying patterns of functional and areal interdependence have become more complex, the manifest patterns of movement have become progressively less simple.

As for comparative studies, there is one outstanding problem requiring research. We need to test the notion that older cities of Europe, together with other urban areas in the non-Western world, tend to be organized in “quarters” within which people live and work, frequently walking to work and rarely leaving their own areas. This pattern is often contrasted with that in the United States, where people are thought to move about the entire urban area in the course of the average day. The actual contrasts may not be as sharp as is commonly supposed.

With respect to the individual commuter, we know next to nothing. There are hypotheses in the literature to the effect that long-distance commuting results in higher rates of illness and absenteeism, but they have yet to be tested in rigorous fashion. Much more also needs to be known about the linkage between occupational and residential mobility, and their joint impact upon the length and character of the journey to work. Finally, we have very little sound knowledge concerning attitudes toward commuting. More generally, there is much to be done on the psychological aspects of commutation.

Leo F. Schnore


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Foley, Donald L. 1954 Urban Daytime Population: A Field for Demographic-Ecological Analysis. Social Forces 32:323-330.

Gerard, Roy 1958 Commuting and the Labor Market Area. Journal of Regional Science 1, no. 1:124-130.

Hawley, Amos H. 1950 Human Ecology: A Theory of Community Structure. New York: Ronald.

Holmberg, Sten 1947 Stor-Stockholm: Dess uppkomst och kommunikationer. Stockholm: Stockholms Sparvager.

Kain, John F. 1967 Urban Travel Behavior. Pages 161-192 in Leo F. Schnore and Henry Fagin (editors), Urban Research and Policy Planning. Beverly Hills, Calif.: Sage Publications.

Kant, Edgar 1957 Suburbanization, Urban Sprawl, and Commutation: Examples From Sweden. Pages 244-309 in David Hannerberg et al. (editors), Migration in Sweden: A Symposium. Lund University Studies in Geography, Series B, No. 13. Lund (Sweden): Gleerup.

KØbenhavn Traffickkommissionen 1949 Bolig—Ar-bejdssted undersøgelse samt traffiktoelling i K.Øbenhavn 1945. Copenhagen: Udgivet af Stadsingeni0rens Direktorat.

Liepmann, Kate K. (1944) 1945 The Journey to Work: Its Significance for Industrial and Community Life. London: Routledge.

Lynch, John T. 1944 Origin and Destination Surveys in Urban Areas. National Research Council, Highway Research Board, Proceedings 24:239-254.

Macgregor, D. Ronald 1953 Daily Travel: A Study in Time and Distance Around Edinburgh. Scottish Geographical Magazine 69:117-127.

Menzler, F. A. A. 1952 An Estimate of the Day-time Population of London. Town Planning Institute, London, Journal 38:116-120.

Mitchell, Robert B.; and Rapkin, Chester 1954 Urban Traffic: A Function of Land Use. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

Owen, Wilfred (1956) 1966 The Metropolitan Transportation Problem. Rev. ed. Washington: Brookings Institution.

Die Pendelwanderung zwischen Wohnung und Arbeitstatte in Hamburg 1950 und 1939. 1952 Hamburg, Statistisches Landesamt, Hamburg in Zahlen 37:425-444.

Scaff, Alvin H. 1952 The Effect of Commuting on Participation in Community Organizations. American Sociological Review 17:215-220.

Schnore, Leo F. 1954 The Separation of Home and Work: A Problem for Human Ecology. Social Forces 32:336-343.

Schnore, Leo F. 1960 Three Sources of Data on Commuting: Problems and Possibilities. Journal of the American Statistical Association 55:8-22.

Schnore, Leo F. 1962 The Use of Public Transportation in Urban Areas. Traffic Quarterly 16:488-498.

Van Der Haegen, H. 1953 Les migrants alternants bruxellois. Société Beige d’Études Géographiques (Brussels), Bulletin 22:441-449.

Watanabe, Yoshio 1953 The Urban Region of Sendai: A Study of the Urban Concentric Zoning in Its Actual Pattern in Japan. Tohoku Daigaku, Sendai, Japan, Science Reports, 7th Series 2:30-52.

Wingo, Lowdon Jr. 1961 Transportation and Urban Land. Washington: Resources for the Future.


views updated Jun 08 2018


Transportation concerns the movement of products from a sourcesuch as a plant, factory, or workshopto a destinationsuch as a warehouse, customer, or retail store. Transportation may take place by air, water, rail, road, pipeline, or cable routes, using planes, boats, trains, trucks, and telecommunications equipment as the means of transportation. The goal for any business owner is to minimize transportation costs while also meeting demand for products. Transportation costs generally depend upon the distance between the source and the destination, the means of transportation chosen, and the size and quantity of the product to be shipped. In many cases, there are several sources and many destinations for the same product, which adds a significant level of complexity to the problem of minimizing transportation costs. Indeed, the United States boasts the world's largest and most complex transportation system, with four million miles' worth of roads, a railroad network that could circle the earth almost seven times if laid out in a straight line, and enough oil and gas lines to circle the globe 56 times.

The decisions a business owner must make regarding transportation of products are closely related to a number of other distribution issues. For example, the accessibility of suitable means of transportation factors into decisions regarding where best to locate a business or facility. The means of transportation chosen will also affect decisions regarding the form of packing used for products and the size or frequency of shipments made. Although transportation costs may be reduced by sending larger shipments less frequently, it is also necessary to consider the costs of holding extra inventory. The interrelationship of these decisions means that successful planning and scheduling can help business owners to save on transportation costs.


Transportation is divided into modes based on the type of transportation usedwaterborne, rail, road-based, air, and pipeline. In turn "single-mode" and "multiple-mode" materials movements are recorded, the latter type sometimes referred to as "intermodal transport." This mixed mode of transport involves two or more modes to make a shipment. An example is oil transport to a port facility by tanker followed by pipeline transport of the crude to a refinery. In the Age of Information, as we like to call our times, we also transport data using wire or wireless methods; but while "data deliveries" are essentially equivalent in some businesses to "shipments," as yet data transfer is not routinely considered to be transportation.

Water, rail, and truck transportation modes are each capable of transporting anything moving in commerce physically, but these modes have different levels of access to customers, different speeds, and thus carry different types of cargo. Barges very rarely carry packaged-good shipments and trucks almost never move bulk commodities except over very short distances. Air transport is limited in transporting very bulky and very heavy objects, but air transport is ideal for light packages and for items that must be transported rapidly; pipelines move liquids and gases or other substances that behave in an analogous way but cannot be used in other applications.

Air Transport

Air transportation offers the advantage of speed and can be used for long-distance transport. However, air is also the most expensive means of transportation; it is generally used only for smaller items of relatively high valuesuch as electronic equipmentand items for which the speed of arrival is importantsuch as perishable goods. Air transport is centralized at airports; the lack of landing sites, even for helicopters, makes air transport a hub-to-hub method. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) therefore considers ancillary transportation associated with air shipments part of air shipments, such as truck or rail delivery of goods to and from airports to final destinations. Despite what has been said about limitations on weight and size, as these relate to air transportation, an astonishing variety of goods have been flown occasionally under certain circumstances, including very big and heavy equipmentdisassembled into appropriate and transportable sub-groupings.


The rail transportation network in the United States included 121,400 major rail lines in the mid-2000s. Trains are ideally suited for shipping bulk products and can be adapted to meet specific product needs through the use of specialized carsi.e., tankers for liquids, refrigerated cars for perishables, and cars fitted with ramps for automobiles. Roughly two-thirds of all freight moved by rail consists of coal shipments in dedicated trains that run from points of coal mining to electric utilities that burn the coal.

Rail transportation is typically used for long-distance shipping. Less expensive than air transportation, it offers about the same delivery speed as trucks over long distances and exceeds transport speeds via marine waterways. In fact, deregulation and the introduction of freight cars with larger carrying capacities has enabled rail carriers to make inroads in several areas previously dominated by motor carriers. But access to the rail network remains a problem for many businesses.

Motor Carriers

Unless a business is located directly at a sea or river port or is served by a railroad siding, it is going to receive its inputs, and ship its products, using truck transportation over the highway network. Transport systems designed around trucks are the most flexiblebecause a mix of small and large equipment can be readily assembled and deployed and because all points are accessible to trucks. For this reason, by the last quarter of the 20th century, trucking became the dominant mode of transportation. The chief limitations of transport by motor carrier is that large bulk shipments of commodities are expensive to move because, in effect, each railcar equivalent of load requires its own engine and driver. Commodity movements by truck are therefore very limited.

Water Transport

Water transportation is the least expensive and slowest mode of freight transport. It is generally used to transport heavy products over long distances when speed is not an issue. Although accessibility is a problem with shipsbecause they are necessarily limited to coastal area or major inland waterwayspiggybacking is possible using either trucks or rail cars. However, industry observers note that port terminal accessibility to land-based modes of transportations is lacking in many regions. The main advantage of water transportation is that it can move products all over the world.


Pipelines are used predominantly to transport natural gas and oil. To move such materials long distances in pipes, booster stations must be built at intervals which receive the gas, recompress it, and push it back into the pipeline or receive the liquid and pump it on its way under higher pressure. Chemicals and slurries (e.g., powdered coal in water) can also be transported in pipelines. The most extensive network consists of natural gas pipelines, comprising around 276,000 miles of transmission lines from which around 920,000 miles of distribution lines carry gas to users. In its overall freight statistics, the DOT includes only petroleum shipments by pipeline.


In its most recent (2006) comprehensive report on transportation modes, the Department of Transportation showed data for the year 2002. The value of all freight shipped that year was $13,052 billion, amounted to 19,487 million tons, and the total movement was 4,409 billion ton-miles. A ton-mile is 1 ton of freight moved 1 mile.

Using ton-miles as the overall measurement, 92.4 percent of all freight moved by single modes, 5.3 percent moved by two or more modes (intermodally), and 2.3 percent of freight moved by modes the DOT could not determine. In order of rank, the known modes had the following shares of total transportation as measured by ton-mile: truck (34.4 percent), rail (31.1), pipeline carrying oil (15.6 percent), water (11.0), mixed combinations (3.7), truck and rail combined (1.1), parcel, postal, or courier (0.5), and air transport (0.3) percent.

see also Physical Distribution


"Class I Railroad Statistics." Association of American Railroads. Available from Retrieved on 30 April 2006.

U.S. Department of Transportation. Freight in America. 2006.

                               Hillstrom, Northern Lights

                                updated by Magee, ECDI


views updated May 23 2018


Transportation underwent a revolution in the waning years of the nineteenth century and the early ones of the twentieth that would irrevocably alter the course of American life. As the period began, the railroad was king, but alternate modes of transportation soon emerged. Starting in the late 1870s, the bicycle offered an unprecedented combination of independence and convenience. The automobile arrived as a viable form of personal transportation at the turn of the century. This new mode of travel combined the bicycle's independence with the ability to cover considerable distances in ease and comfort. The automobile ideally suited the American national character, and car became king in the twentieth century. Other forms of urban mass transit—the electric streetcar, the elevated train, the subway—were also developed during the period. Though ocean liners remained the only way of crossing the Atlantic, the airplane was approaching viability as a mode of long-distance transportation at the end of the period.


On 10 May 1869 the Union Pacific Railroad, building west from Omaha, Nebraska, and the Central Pacific Railroad, building east from Sacramento, California, met at Promontory, Utah, to create the first transcontinental route. Before the completion of this cross-country railroad, people wishing to travel through the American West had little choice but to take the stagecoach, an uncomfortable, time-consuming, and often dangerous method of transportation. Perhaps no single literary work illustrates the contrast between the two better than Mark Twain's Roughing It (1872). Narrating events that occurred before the completion of the transcontinental route, yet written afterward, Mark Twain (1835–1910), with characteristic hilarity, related the hardships involved with stagecoach travel. For the sake of comparison, he also included a newspaper account written by a traveler who crossed the plains of Nebraska from the comfort of a Pullman dining car, sipping champagne and eating broiled trout. With the transcontinental railroad, Mark Twain implied, travelers gained much in terms of speed and comfort but they lost something, too. The hardships associated with more rugged forms of transportation can help make great stories.

The transcontinental route did inspire its share of travel literature, but even the travel writers could not deny that the train had changed the way people experienced the world through which they traveled. Richard Harding Davis's (1864–1916) The West from a Car-Window (1892), to name one of the most popular travels books of its day, shows how the mode of transportation can shape an author's perspective. Taking travelers through harsh, intimidating terrain quickly and comfortably, the railroad isolated them from the regions through which they passed. The train changed how travelers saw the towns and cities they entered, limited the variety of people they encountered, and transformed the landscape into a picture to be observed rather than an environment to be experienced. The window of a railway car and, more generally, the railroad itself mediated the travel experience, turning the environment into an abstraction, a phenomenon Carl Sandburg (1878–1967) recorded in his three-line poem "Window":

Night from a railroad car window
Is a great, dark, soft thing
Broken across with slashes of light.

Given its unprecedented level of comfort, the passenger train gave people sufficient leisure time to let them relax and read. The railroads thus influenced popular literary tastes and shaped the reading process. Reading had been virtually impossible in a stagecoach, but train travel was conducive to reading, and businesses catering to reading passengers emerged. In 1864 William Henry Williams began the Union News Company, an endeavor which grew into an extensive chain of retail stores located at railway stations in major cities throughout the United States. The Union News Company later became affiliated with the publishing and distribution firm the American News Company, and together they significantly influenced the publishing industry. The Union News gave the railway newsstand a professionalism and uniformity that its haphazard predecessors had lacked. Under its management, the railway newsstand became more lucrative than newsstands anywhere outside the railway station.

Aboard the train, passengers could buy cheap pamphlet novels from the newsboys who rode the rails to peddle books. The unique design of the American railway car made the newsboy's trade possible. Unlike European railway carriages, which consisted of multiple compartments accessed from the side of the train, American railway cars were designed with exits at each end, a long aisle spanning its length, and rows of upholstered seats on either side of the aisle. The newsboys could thus enter a car through the doors at one end, walk down the aisle, easily serve each passenger, exit through the doors at the other end, and repeat the process in the following car. Describing a railway journey from New York to Philadelphia and complaining about how often the doors at either end of the railway car were noisily pulled opened or slammed shut, William Howard Russell, a British traveler found that the nerve-jarring nuisance was usually "the work of a newspaper boy, with a sheaf of journals and trashy illustrated papers under his arm" (p. 31). The marketing of cheap books on the train had a significant impact on the retail book trade, too. Describing his American travels, Anthony Trollope (1815–1882) wrote, "I do not know that anything impresses a visitor more strongly with the amount of books sold in the States, than the practice of selling them as it has been adopted in the railway cars" (p. 273).

Railroads continued being built on a large scale through the nineteenth century, reaching a peak in the 1880s. To most, they represented the wonder of machinery and the progress of America. Walt Whitman, for one, imagined great possibilities for the transcontinental railroad. In Specimen Days (1882) he beckons readers, "If you want to see what the railroad is, and how civilization and progress date from it—how it is the conqueror of crude nature, which it turns to man's use, both on small scales and on the largest—come hither to inland America" (pp. 871–872). Making imaginative use of the transcontinental railroad in "A Passage to India," Whitman expressed the idea that this connection between the east and west coasts of America represented the final link connecting Orient and Occident. With its completion, all parts of the world could be linked together in universal brotherhood. "A Passage to India" presents one of the greatest celebrations of the transcontinental railroad:

I see over my own continent the Pacific Railroad
surmounting every barrier,
I see continual trains of cars winding along the
Platte carrying freight and passengers,
I hear the locomotives rushing and roaring, and
the shrill steam-whistle,
I hear the echoes reverberate through the grandest
scenery in the world.

(P. 532)

To some, however, the numerous railroads symbolized the reach and rapaciousness of the railroad barons who owned and operated them. Perhaps the finest articulation of this idea occurs in The Octopus (1901), the novel by Frank Norris (1870–1902), whose protagonist sees the railroad as

the galloping monster, the terror of steel and steam, with its single eye, Cyclopean, red, shooting from horizon to horizon . . . the symbol of a vast power, huge, terrible, flinging the echo of its thunder over all the reaches of the valley, leaving blood and destruction in its path, the leviathan, with tentacles of steel clutching into the soil, the soulless Force, the iron-hearted Power, the monster, the Colossus, the Octopus. (P. 617)

From this perspective, the railroad represented the destruction of the American pastoral ideal and the dehumanization of the American people. The size and power of the railroad showed individuals how puny and insignificant they were in the face of the vast industrial forces that shaped the United States at the turn of the century.


The Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia presented multiple exhibits displaying the history of the railroad in the United States and the potential contribution the railroad could make to the future development of the American continent. One exhibit hall was named Machinery Hall, and it served as a vast shrine to the power of machines, especially the steam engine. Many other kinds of machines were exhibited here, but not all were steam-powered. One exhibit displayed a human-powered, two-wheeled contrivance from Great Britain that had become known as a bicycle.

The frame was made of tubular steel and its tires of hard rubber; the front wheel was quite large and the back quite small. The large front wheel, proportionate to the rider's inseam, allowed the bicycle to cover an impressive distance with every rotation of the pedals. Attending the Centennial Exhibition, Colonel Albert Augustus Pope (1843–1909) became fascinated with these high-wheeled bicycles. Recognizing their commercial potential, he began importing English bicycles in 1877 and arranged for them to be made in America the following year, contracting the Weed Sewing Machine Company in Hartford, Connecticut, for their manufacture. The indigenous manufacture, combined with Pope's rigorous commercial promotion of the practical yet fun-filled machine and his shrewd legal maneuvering whereby he secured patents that forced other American manufacturers to pay him for permission to make their own high-wheeled machines greatly facilitated the bicycle's emergence and made Colonel Pope the single most important individual responsible for establishing the bicycle in the United States.

The high-wheeled bicycle developed an enthusiastic following among fairly affluent young men in the 1880s. They formed bicycle clubs and established elegant club rooms. Being a wheelman became a way of life. Wheelmen belonged to that class of gentlemen-adventurers, sportsmen in the broadest sense of the term, who enjoyed an evening in their club rooms after a day in the wilds, who enjoyed a sumptuous meal but only after working up a good appetite through vigorous outdoor exercise, who appreciated a good cigar as much as they appreciated a lungful of fresh air, who enjoyed a snifter of cognac as much as they did a draught from an icy mountain stream, and who could read Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Lord Byron as well as they could read a map.

The bicycle inspired some adventuresome wheelmen to attempt long distance travel and, in so doing, made an important contribution to American travel literature, too. Thomas Stevens (1854–1935) crossed the continent in 1884 and went on to circle the globe atop his wheel, a journey he told in Around the World on a Bicycle (1887). Stevens's adventure encouraged others to attempt long-distance travel, including, most importantly, George Nellis (1865–1948), who set a record in 1887 for crossing the continent by bicycle in seventy-two days. Nellis also a contributed to American travel literature: he financed his trip by writing it up for local newspapers and for the Wheel and Recreation, the most prominent of many cycling magazines that were being published at the time. Nellis's personal charm, his love of cycling, and his wry sense of humor show through in the delightful letters he published during the course of his trip. West of Omaha, he took a route parallel to the Union Pacific and Central Pacific Railroads, but traveling by bicycle, he experienced the nation in a much different way than those who traveled by rail. He saw sights, visited towns, and met people that the passenger trains passed by without stopping.

The high-wheeled bicycle remains an icon of the era, but riding one took a fair amount of skill and buying one took a fair amount of money. A good-quality bicycle in the 1880s cost about a quarter of the annual salary of a factory worker. With the invention of the safety bicycle and the pneumatic tire, bicycling gained a huge popular following over the next decade. Increased demand brought increased production, which decreased prices. As the high-wheeler gave way to the safety bicycle, the bicycle went from being a privileged recreational pursuit to a mode of popular short-distance transportation and recreation. Whereas the locomotive presented a vast machine that belittled the individual, the bicycle, like the automobile after it, was a machine that empowered individuals and gave them the freedom to travel where and when they wanted.


The popularity of the bicycle in the 1890s anticipated the coming popularity of the automobile. That same decade, numerous automobile companies were being formed, and numerous experimental automobiles were being produced. Colonel Pope, for one, shifted corporate operations from bicycle to automobile manufacture in the 1890s. In 1896 Henry Ford (1863–1947) created the lightweight Quadricycle, his first experimental car to use an internal combustion engine. Ford Motor Company sold its first automobile in 1903, two years after what is considered the first commercially successful, American-made auto, the curved-dash Oldsmobile. Whereas Ford and Oldsmobile went on to experience great commercial success, other pioneering automobile manufacturers were less fortunate. The early automotive industry was viciously competitive, and few companies survived the first decade of the new century. Colonel Pope's company, sadly, went into receivership in 1907.

Many bicycling enthusiasts met the automobile with derision. Writing in 1900, a pseudonymous contributor to the Overland Monthly observed: "The automobile puffs its lugubrious way through our streets and byways. The automobile is not pretty; it is not, so far, even effective. It has merely succeeded in being prosaically noisy and vulgarly ostentatious. But the bicycle possesses all the gentlemanly qualities. It is graceful, well-conducted, quiet and modest" (Rotifer, p. 521). Though one was quiet and human-powered while the other was noisy and engine-driven, both the bicycle and the automobile gave Americans what they characteristically desired the most: freedom and independence.

Henry Ford recognized what American motorists wanted and understood how to give it to them. After producing several modestly successful automobiles, Ford released the Model T, the first mass-produced car, in 1908. At an initial cost of less than $1000, the Model T was the first automobile many people could afford. Before the last one came off the assembly line in 1927, the price had dropped below $300, and Ford had sold 15 million units.

In terms of the history of American literature, the automobile found its first great enthusiast in Edith Wharton (1862–1937), whose Motor-Flight through France (1908) begins with a paean to the automobile:

The motor-car has restored the romance of travel.

Freeing us from all the compulsions and contacts of the railway, the bondage to fixed hours and the beaten track, the approach to each town through the area of ugliness and desolation created by the railway itself, it has given us back the wonder, the adventure and the novelty which enlivened the way of our posting grandparents. Above all these recovered pleasures must be ranked the delight of taking a town unawares, stealing on it by back ways and unchronicled paths, and surprising in it some intimate aspect of past time, some silhouette hidden for half a century or more by the ugly mask of railway embankments and the iron bulk of a huge station. The villages that we missed and yearned for from the windows of the train—the unseen villages have been given back to us! (Pp. 1–2)

For Edith Wharton, the automobile, that most modern of personal contrivances, paradoxically brought back a bygone era—the time before steam locomotives—because it allowed travelers to see what the railroads had obscured. Furthermore, it freed people from schedules and timetables. Wharton's Motor-Flight through France anticipates the American love affair with the automobile that would develop quickly over the next few decades. Not all recognized such benefits to the automobile as quickly as Edith Wharton, however. She often tried to get Henry James (1843–1916) to come along on her motoring trips, but he disdained the automobile. James often enjoyed bicycling from his English home to visit nearby friends, but he could never fathom Wharton's passion for the automobile. He nicknamed her "Firebird" and called her automobile the "Chariot of Fire."

To some, the auto became a menace to the city streets and only confirmed impressions that modern urban mass transit was suggesting. In New York, the first mode of rapid urban transit, the elevated railways or el-trains, were constructed from 1867 through 1870. By the early 1890s, elevated lines crisscrossed Manhattan from South Ferry to 155th Street. The noisy, dirty eltrains darkened and polluted streets, made buildings shake, and continually disturbed anyone living at the third-floor level along the elevated routes. The el-trains served as a pervasive reminder of the extent to which industrial technology controlled people's lives. The development of the electric street cars and subways around the turn of the century presented better alternatives to the el-train, but they, too, served as powerful reminders of the speed, technological advancement, and noise indicative of modern existence.

As more highways were developed, the use of the automobile for long-distance travel became more prevalent, but it would not effectively supplant the railroad until the middle of the twentieth century. Through the early decades of the century, the steamship remained the only method of traveling overseas. Despite disasters like the sinking of the Titanic and the Lusitania, American vacationers visited Europe via steamship in increasingly large numbers before and after World War I. By 1920 a new form of transportation was emerging. Though passenger airlines would not really be developed until the next decade, the invention of the airplane marked the start of the next great transportation revolution.

See alsoScience and Technology; Tourism and Travel Writing


Primary Works

Davis, Richard Harding. The West from a Car-Window. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1892.

Norris, Frank. Novels and Essays. Edited by Donald Pizer. New York: Library of America, 1986.

Rotifer. "The Wheel in the West." Overland Monthly 35 (June 1900): 521–529.

Russell, William Howard. My Diary North and South. Boston: Burnham, 1863.

Sandburg, Carl. Chicago Poems. New York: Henry Holt, 1916.

Stevens, Thomas. Around the World on a Bicycle. 1887. Edited by Thomas Pauly. Mechanicsburg, Pa.: Stackpole Books, 2001.

Trollope, Anthony. North America. Edited by Donald Smalley and Bradford Allen Booth. New York: Knopf, 1951.

Twain, Mark. Roughing It. 1875. Edited by Harriet Elinor Smith and Edgar Marquess Branch. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993.

Wharton, Edith. A Motor-Flight through France. 1908. Edited by Mary Suzanne Schriber. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1991.

Whitman, Walt. Complete Poetry and Collected Prose. Edited by Justin Kaplan. New York: Library of America, 1982.

Secondary Works

Brinkley, Douglas. Wheels for the World: Henry Ford, His Company, and a Century of Progress, 1903–2003. New York: Viking, 2003.

Conrad, Peter. Modern Times, Modern Places. New York: Knopf, 1999.

Hayes, Kevin J. An American Cycling Odyssey, 1887. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2002.

Hayes, Kevin J. "Railway Reading." Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society 106 (1997): 301–326.

Smith, Robert A. Merry Wheels and Spokes of Steel: A Social History of the Bicycle. San Bernardino, Calif.: Borgo Press, 1995.

Kevin J. Hayes


views updated Jun 08 2018


Historically, societies have always located near water, due partly to the fact that water enables more efficient travel compared to going over land. Waterways are critically important to the transportation of people and goods throughout the world. The complex network of connections between coastal ports, inland ports, rail, air, and truck routes forms a foundation of material economic wealth worldwide.

Within the United States, waterways have been developed and integrated into a world-class transportation system that has been instrumental in the country's economic development. Today, there are more than 17,700 kilometers of commercially important navigation channels in the lower 48 states.

Early History of Water-based Transportation

The historical development of water-based transportation is connected to the importance of domestic and international trade. Early exploration of North America identified large amounts of natural resources such as fisheries, timber, and furs. Trade centers were established along the east coast of North America where goods could be gathered together and ocean vessels could transport them to consumers in Europe and other foreign areas. The success of commercial trading companies spurred the introduction of more colonial settlements that in turn resulted in additional increases in population, economic activity, and trade.

From the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries, small subsistence farms were prevalent among the American colonies. Eventually larger farms emerged and produced crops such as wheat, tobacco, rice, indigo, and cotton that were commercially marketable in Europe. Ocean vessels transported the bulk, low-value goods from the colonies to Europe and returned with high-value, low-density goods such as inks, linens, and finished products that had a much higher return on the investment per vessel trip.

Agricultural production continued to grow and support the growing colonies' economic development. The speed and low cost of transporting goods by water influenced the locations of population settlements near navigable water (rivers, lakes, canals, and oceans). Goods produced on inland farms were transported via inland waterways to the coastal ports. Goods shipped by smaller vessels from surrounding ports were transported to New York, Boston, and Philadelphia, and exported on larger oceangoing ships. These ships from the smaller ports then transported imported goods back to the surrounding ports.

During the 1700s, the British government passed many acts, such as the Navigation Acts and the Stamp Act of 1765, designed to collect taxes from the colonists. The acts affected trade, and were met with opposition from the colonist. In Philadelphia during the fall of 1774, the "Declarations and Resolves of the First Continental Congress" called for non-importation of British goods, and became a catalyst for the American Revolutionary War (17751784). The resulting independence for the United States allowed trade a free rein, and it flourished.

Westward Expansion.

The westward expansion of the United States exposed a wealth of natural resources and an increased production in agricultural goods. The inland transportation infrastructure of roads, railroads, canals, and rivers connected the early western settlers with the rest of the nation, and enabled goods to move from the west back to more populated areas in the east and onto other parts of the world. The River and Harbor (Appropriations) Act of 1876 established federal funding of waterways to promote national commerce but not to benefit any particular state nor to allow waterway tolls.

Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries

Increased levels of world trade resulted from the economic growth occurring since the end of World War II in 1945. The United States was in the position to take advantage of new trading opportunities as new world markets opened. Developing countries demanded capital goods, agricultural products, consumer goods, and commercial services, which the United States could provide. As these nations produced goods for export, the United States became a market for these goods.

A significant factor in the opening of the inland waterway system (and the resultant world trade superiority of the United States) was the advances in ship technology and the application of steam power to ships that traveled the extensive water network. Larger and faster ships emerged from the advances in ship and engine design and improvements in construction materials.

Methods of cargo handling evolved to keep pace with the larger vessel sizes. The introduction of palletization and roll-on/roll-off cargoes enabled vessels to be loaded and unloaded in less time. The emergence of containerization in the late 1950s dramatically affected the shipping industry and port infrastructure. The increasing size of containerized cargo vessels became a driving force in the demand for expanded ports and improved facilities.

Importance to Foreign Trade.

Transporting goods with foreign trading partners can be accomplished by road, water, rail, or air. However, for the majority of foreign trading partners, the only options for transportation are water or air. Water-based transportation is generally the most costeffective mode for the majority of internationally traded goods.

About 95 percent of U.S. foreign trade passes through its port system. Ports function as the transfer point between land and water transportation of cargo.* For vessels to transport the foreign traded cargo, they must be able to access the ports through established channels. The channels provide adequate water depths for the vessels and navigational aids.

Today's Global Trade.

Today the world economy has become globalized. The economic system is changing from one with distinct local and national markets, separated by trade barriers, distance, time, and culture, to one that is increasingly converging and integrating into a global economy.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the United States was the world's leading trader in 1998, accounting for about one billion tons of ocean-bound trade (about 20 percent of the world's total ocean-bound trade) out of about 2.4 billion tons of total foreign trade. In 2000, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, approximately $736 billion of goods (about 40 percent of the total U.S. foreign trade by dollar amount) were shipped via ocean vessels and passed through U.S. ports. By 2020, international trade is estimated to more than double (by weight) within the United States, with the majority of this trade projected to move via ocean shipping.

Marine Transportation System.

According to the Department of Transportation, when cargo is transported by water within the United States, 95 percent of the time it involves the Marine Transportation System (MTS). This comprehensive system resulted from years of water transport development involving such U.S. organizations as the Coast Guard, Maritime Administration, Army Corps of Engineers, NOAA, and Environmental Protection Agency.

The MTS is a complex and diverse national network of waterways, ports, and intermodal landside connections that allows various modes of water-based transportation. The system includes: navigable waterways (such as the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway); publicly and privately owned commerce-carrying vessels; over 3,500 bulk oil transfer facilities; more than 350 ports located at approximately 4,000 marine terminals; about 40,000 kilometers of navigable channels; more than 235 locks and dams at over 190 locations; shipyards; rail yards; vessel repair facilities, over 10,000 recreational marinas; and a trained labor staff that operates and maintains the entire infrastructure. Users of the waterway system each year include 70,000 port calls for commercial vessels, 110,000 fishing vessels, and 20 million recreational vessels.

International Maritime Fleets and Law

Many nations around the world have built up their fleets to become very profitable. Since World War II, the size of the U.S. flag merchant fleet has declined, partly due to improved technologies and partly due to foreign competition among fleets. But while this number of ships has declined, the productivity has greatly increased. Since 1970, these fewer ships carry 42 percent more cargo. However, the U.S. fleet accounts for less than 5 percent of all commercial foreign trade by weight. Data from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Maritime Administration indicate the following composition and carrying capacity of the U.S.-flag fleet in 2000:

Composition Capacity

Passenger1: 1,265 Passenger: 368,000 passengers

Dry Bulk: 10 Dry Bulk: 2,124,000 metric tons

Dry Cargo/Offshore Support: Dry Cargo: 47,253,000 metric tons 2,910

Containership: 61

Tanker: 173 Tanker: 19,172,000 metric tons

Vehicular/Railroad Car Ferry: Railroad/Car Float: 89,000 metric 229 tons

Towboat: 5,098

Dredge: 570 Other2: 1,072,000 metric tons

Other2: 45 Total: 72,078,000 metric tons/

368,000 passengers

1Includes ferries and day excursion vessels

2Includes certain general cargo, roll-on/roll-off, multipurpose, LASH (Lighter Aboard Ship) vessels, and deck barges

All ships must be registered to one of the world's nations so that responsibility for violations of international laws and conventions may be assigned. This causes many shipping companies to shop around for nations that give them the best values on taxes, wages, and legal restrictions.

Liberia has the largest shipping fleet in the world. Relatively smaller countries like the Bahamas, Honduras, the Marshall Islands, Panama, and Vanuatu have large fleets as well. The United Nation's International Maritime Organization (IMO) is responsible for improving the safety of international shipping, preventing marine pollution, and facilitating international maritime traffic. The Department of Transportation has the overall lead on all maritime issues for the United States, and works with the IMO on these issues.

Economics, National Security, and the Environment

The United States dependence on seas and waterways has been vital to its economic success and national security. The pool of skilled labor working on U.S. flag vessels is also a national security asset. This workforce is relied upon to meet surges in shipping needs in the advent of emergencies. The merchant marine has played a historical role in military conflicts. In 1996, the Maritime Security Act established the maritime security program to support a fleet of U.S. commercial vessels with American crews to support the military and economic security of the country; approximately 47 vessels participate in this program.

The inland waterways are also a national security asset. The 1920 Jones Act required domestic waterborne commerce to be transported in vessels built in the United States, documented under U.S. laws, and owned by U.S. citizens. The Jones Act covers over 42,000 commercial vessels, 124,000 jobs, and $15 billion in economic activity. Many other countries have similar laws restricting foreign access to domestic trade shipped via waterways.

The MTS is also vital to national security. The ability to rapidly deploy troops and materials worldwide is critical to the country's defense. The Voluntary Intermodal Sealift Agreement (VISA) is a standby agreement intended to make commercial, intermodal dry cargo capacity and supporting infrastructure available to meet contingency deployment needs of the Department of Defense. Since World War II, approximately 95 percent of all military equipment and material sent to combat and crisis areas was ship cargo transported by ocean vessels. For example, during the Persian Gulf War (19901991), nearly all domestic supplies intended for U.S. military forces traveled by ship.

Marine transportation is an important use of the ocean. Increased demands will be placed on U.S. ports and waterways as domestic and international trade continues to expand. These increases in the use of waterways and port facilities must be achieved while still protecting human health and the environment.

see also Navigation at Sea, History of; Ports and Harbors.

Terri A. Thomas

and William Arthur Atkins


Bauer, K. Jack. A Maritime History of the United States: The Role of America's Seas and Waterways. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1988.

Hershman, Marc J. Urban Ports and Harbors Management. New York: Taylor & Francis, 1988.

Hill, Forest G. Roads, Rails, and Waterways: The Army Engineers and Early Transportation. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1957.

Kendall, Lane C. The Business of Shipping. Centreville, MD: Cornell Maritime Press, 1979.

Marcus, Henry et al. Federal Port Policy in the United States. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1976.

Internet Resources

Great Lakes and Seaway Shipping. N. Schultheiss. <>.

Navigation Data Center. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. <>.

U.S. Port Totals by Type Service. U.S. Foreign Waterborne Transportation Statistics Program, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Department of Transportation. <>.

What is the Marine Transportation System? U.S. Department of Transportation. <>.

* See "Oil Spills: Impact on the Ocean" and "Ports and Harbors" for photographs of busy U.S. ports.


views updated May 21 2018



Taming Great Distances . Even in 1783, when the Mississippi River formed its western border, the United States was a huge country. The nation doubled in size with the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Farmers traveling west in search of land, merchants looking for better means of transporting their goods, and politicians dreaming of better communications among the expanding population all needed canals, roads, and bridges. The country was still mostly wilderness, and the population small (about six million), but restless, energetic, confident Americans set to work building the infrastructure of a new nation.

Canals . Water had always presented an alternative to land travel, especially in colonies such as Virginia where an extensive network of rivers connected towns and plantations to the seaports. Throughout the settled regions of America, rivers provided the primary means for transporting produce and goods from inland farms to eastern seaports. As settlements expanded beyond the reach of navigable rivers, it was a natural step to build canals to connect rivers, or to bypass shallows or rapids. These were major undertakings, accomplished mostly by pick and shovel. Four hundred men worked nine years to construct the Middlesex Canal in Massachusetts. There was little engineering expertise available; experts were imported, or men with talent simply experimented, learning as they went along.

Building the Locks . It was especially difficult to construct the locks that compensated for differences in elevation along the route. A lock is a relatively watertight section with gates at both ends. After a boat enters the lock at one end, the gate closes behind it, and to raise or lower the boat to the water level in the next section, water is pumped into, or drained out of, the lock. Once the water level in the lock is equal to the level of the next section, the gate between them is opened, and the boat can proceed. Some ingenious alternatives to locks were tried: the two levels of the South Hadley Falls Canal in western Massachusetts were connected by an inclined plane, and boats were put in water-filled tanks and hauled up or down by cables. But no method was as effective as the lock. The first canal to employ a lock in America was the Sault Sainte Marie, constructed by the Northwest Fur Company in 1798 to connect Lakes Huron and Superior. The lock was shallow, managing a level difference of only one and a half feet, but the canals success led to more-ambitious projects. The Middlesex Canal, connecting Boston Harbor to the Merrimack River at Chelmsford, had twenty-eight locks along its twenty-seven-mile length. Its chief engineer, Laommi Baldwin, had never actually seen a lock when he began construction and ended up hiring an expert from England to help him complete the project.

Canal Competition . By 1790 there were thirty canal companies incorporated in eight states. The Dismal Swamp Canal was constructed in 1794, the Sault Sainte Marie in 1798, and the Middlesex in 1803. George Washington personally invested in the Potomac Canal (begun in 1785 and operational in 1802) in an attempt to ensure that produce from the West would be transported to Virginia rather than to the rival state of New York, which was considering a canal of its own. New Yorks project was the famous Erie Canal, connecting the Great Lakes to the Hudson River and the Atlantic Ocean. All the planning and authorizations were completed prior to 1815, although the actual construction was not begun until 1817. Compared to the canals built only two decades earlier, the Erie was an amazing feat of engineering, stretching for 363 miles with eighty-three locks that would lift boats over six hundred feet.

Roads through the Wilderness . In addition to canal building, a tremendous amount of energy and money went into road construction. Roads in America were not much more than widened trails. Tree stumps and holes made the roads difficult; mud made them impassable except in dry weather. Under normal conditions it took three days to travel by coach from Boston to New York City, another day and a half to reach Philadelphia, and three days more to Baltimore. Traveling inland was even slower: going from Philadelphia to Nashville took over two weeks. Between 1792 and 1794 the Philadelphia and Lancaster Turn Pike Company built a sixty-six-mile road using a layer of small crushed stones which kept the road from deteriorating in bad weather. (This new method had been perfected by a British engineer named John McAdam, from whom we get the name of the macadam road surface used today.) The success of the Lancaster turnpike led Congress to approve the Cumberland Road in 1802, intended to stretch from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River. By 1818 it connected Cumberland, Maryland, on the Potomac River, to Wheeling, Virginia, on the Ohio River, but this national road ran into more political than technological roadblocks and was never fully completed. Yet it was clear that well-made roads had tremendous social and economic benefits, and state and private interests were ready to take over when the federal government abandoned its involvement in national roads.

Bridges . Sturdy wooden bridges had been built from the earliest days of the colonies. But wooden bridges could span narrow rivers only; if extended too far the bridge would weaken and crumble. By 1792 Timothy Palmer had applied the truss concept, triangular supports above the bridges deck, to his bridge over the Merrimack River in Massachusetts. Extremely long bridges required multiple sections held up by pilings driven into the river bottom. But this trestle bridge construction did not work well in deep water, nor in the northern climate

where winter ice would destroy the supports, and bridges were constantly being rebuilt.

Charles River . In 1785 John Hancock petitioned the Massachusetts legislature for the right to build a toll bridge over the Charles River connecting Boston and Charlestown. He chose Lemuel Cox, a mechanic and wheelwright who had never built a bridge, to design and construct it. Many considered the project impossible because of the rivers tidal currents, great width, and tendency to freeze. Yet on 17 June 1786 Cox completed the longest bridge in America. It was 1, 503 feet long and 42 feet wide, with seventy-five sturdy timber piers and a 30-foot draw.

Iron Bridge . Bridge designers searched for materials stronger than wood to create longer spans. Thomas Paine, better known for his radical political prose, conceived a project in 1785 to build a revolutionary five-hundred-foot, single-span bridge over the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia. It would be made of wrought iron and based, he claimed, on a design of nature: the spiders web. Paine built a scale model, which he displayed at the home of his friend Benjamin Franklin. But he was unable to convince the Pennsylvania legislature or private investors that this untested concept would work in practice. Fed up with American inaction, he took his model and plans to France and England, but with no better fortune. In 1791 he abandoned his iron-bridge project and dedicated his time to writing Rights of Man (17911792). The Schuylkill River was finally crossed in 1798, but with a three-span wooden bridge. For large-scale iron-bridge construction, Paine was several decades ahead of his time.

Significance . These advances in transportationcanals, roads, and bridgeshad significance far beyond their technical feats. They began to solve the problem of commercial, social, and political communication across the vast distances of America, linking what had been separate colonies into an increasingly interconnected United States. Transportation needs would also play a role in the political battle between those who favored a strong national government that would promote internal improvements and those who were equally convinced that this was the responsibility of the individual states.


Henry Adams, The History of the United States During the Administrations of Jefferson and Madison (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1967);

David Freeman Hawke, Paine (New York: Harper & Row, 1974);

Page Smith, The Shaping of America (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1980);

Arthur Bernon Turtellot, The Charles (New York: Farrar & Rinehart, 1941).


views updated Jun 27 2018


For several million years, humans got to where they wanted to go by one means: walking. This, of course, greatly limited the distance of travel and the amount of items that could be transported. Today, transportation is accomplished in the air, on land, and in water. It ranges from carts pulled by horses or oxen and dirt roads in Africa to the Concorde supersonic airplane that can travel from Paris to New York in four hours.

The first changes in transportation came about five to six thousand years ago in three areas: the introduction of boats, the domestication of wild horses, and the invention of the wheel. Horse domestication started about 6,000 years ago, probably occurring in several different parts of the world at about the same time. Riding astride the horse may have begun in Turkestan before 3,000 b.c. At about the same time, many historians believe the wheel was invented in Mesopotamia, a development that drastically changed the way people moved about. It was not long before the wheel found its way onto platforms, forming carts that could be drawn by horses or oxen. Covered wagons and carriages soon followed. It is difficult to say when boats became a means of transportation but ships can be traced back at least to the ancient Mesopotamian, Greek, Roman, and Egyptian empires

In ancient Egypt, the main transportation corridor was the Nile River, where ships carried people and trading goods through the empire. On land, transportation was more difficult. Ordinary people traveled by foot, while high nobles were carried in chairs or covered litters. Over times, these became more elaborate, requiring as many as 28 people to carry them. Lower ranking nobles often rode on a chair fastened on the backs of donkeys. Horse-drawn chariots first appeared in Egypt about 3,500 years ago.

Wheeled vehicles were first used primarily as hearses for the great and as military adjuncts until they gradually came to be used more for carriers of goods. Even during the Classical Age in Greece, chariots were declining in importance for warfare, and they were finally used only for sport. In early times carts with shafts for single animals were preferred in outlying countries where roads were poor, but with improvement in roads came heavy wagons and the use of several animals for power.

Ships took on an ever increasingly important role in transportation starting about a.d. 1400, when ships of exploration sailed from Europe to Asia and the New World. By the seventeenth century, ships regularly carried European settlers to North America. These settlers soon began build their own transportation system, using boats on rivers and coastal waterways and horse and cart by land.

From 1600 to 1754 travel between the American colonies was accomplished most quickly and easily by boat. Everywhere in colonial America settlements sprang up first near navigable rivers. Two types of river vessel were common along colonial rivers. Dugout canoes carried small cargoes, while long (up to 40 ft [12 m]), flat-bottomed boats handled larger loads. River travel everywhere in America was slow and dangerous. Nevertheless, rivers served colonists everywhere as routes for their goods, travel, and communication.

Land travel between seventeenth-century colonies could be difficult as well. The number and condition of roads varied widely from colony to colony, depending heavily on the density of settlement and the support provided by the various colonial legislatures. In many places roadbeds were poor and bridges few. By the 1760s one of the longest roads, the Great Wagon Road, stretched nearly 800 mi (1,287 km) along old Indian trails through western Pennsylvania and Virginia's Shenandoah Valley to Georgia. The longest road in North America was the Camino Real, which connected Mexico City to Santa Fe, an 1,800-mi (2,897-km) trip that took wagon trains six months to complete.

Aside from walking and riding a horse, a person in eighteenth-century America had other means of traveling. Farmers used two-wheeled carts while Indian traders frequently had packhorses. During this era, the Conestoga wagon came to the forefront. A high-wheeled vehicle with a canvas cover, it had a curved bottom in order to keep its load from shifting. As may be expected, the Conestoga quickly became popular. By the 1770s more than 10,000 were in use in Pennsylvania while in the South Carolina backcountry there were an estimated 3,000. Several stagecoach lines operated between all the major cities in the north. The most heavily traveled route, between New York and Philadelphia, was served twice weekly by a stagecoach.

The 1800s saw the advent of two more means of transportation: the steamboat and the railway. Hundreds of steamboats once navigated rivers in the eastern half of the United States railways caught on throughout the world and are the primary form of inner-city mass transit in many countries, such as India. In the twentieth century, two more forms of transportation came into existence: the automobile and airplane. The electric streetcar also gained in popularity, finding itself in many major American cities, including San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New Orleans.

In many parts of the world today, mass transit systems are an important component of a nation's transportation system. Where people can not afford to buy automobiles, they depend on bicycles, animals, or mass transit systems such as bus lines to travel within a city and from city to city.

In the United States the automobile is the primary form of transportation. It is less important in most other parts of the world. Mass transportation, or mass transit, does play a role in the United States. One could argue that stagecoaches were the first mass transit vehicles in the country, since they could hold eight to 10 passengers, a big improvement over one person on a horse or several people in a small horse-drawn buggy. In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, the horse has been replaced with the automobile. Today, mass transit options include airplanes, buses, trolleys, rail and light rail, and subways. The world's first subway opened in London in the late nineteenth century, soon followed by America's first subway in New York.

Most of these forms of transportation brought with them problems, including harming the environment . Electric trains, trolleys, and streetcars are essentially pollution-free but it takes addition power plants to run them, plants that often use highly polluting fuels such as coal and oil. Autos, buses, and airplanes are mostly oil-dependent. It was not until the 1970s that the public began to be concerned with the toxic effects of emissions from these transportation conveyances. Since then, airplanes, buses, and autos have increasingly become less polluting. This, however, has been offset by an increase in their numbers.

Mass transit usage reached its peak in the United States in the 1940s and 1950s. During the 1960s mass transit systems and their ridership declined drastically even as urban populations grew. There was a brief resurgence in the 1970s as the price of gasoline skyrocketed. In 1972, the country embarked on a round of new mass transit systems when the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), opened in the San Francisco Bay Area. BART was followed in the next two decades by new subway, bus, light rail, and trolley systems in Washington, D.C., San Diego, Atlanta, Baltimore, Los Angeles, San Jose, California, and other urban areas. At about the same time, the United States Congress gave the nation's inner-city passenger rail system, Amtrak, a new lease on life. Amtrak proved to be a huge success among inner-city passengers, but the federal government has never maintained the consistent support of the system it showed during the aftermath of the petroleum price hikes of the 1970s.

Over the next several decades, urban planners see little likelihood of entirely new types of mass transportation. Rather, they expect improvements over existing bus, trolley, and light rail systems. And at least one idea that has been around for 50 years is getting a new look. When the monorail was introduced at Disneyland in California in 1955, it was hailed as the clean, fast, and efficient transit system of the future. Up until now, it never caught on, other than a very short single-line monorail that opened in Seattle in 1962. But urban planners are taking a fresh look at monorails, which are attractive because they could be built above existing highways. Las Vegas has begun building a $650 million monorail. The four-line will parallel the heavily congested main thoroughfare, the Strip, carrying an estimated 19 million passengers when it opens in 2004.

[Ken R. Wells ]



Lewis, David, and Fred Laurence Williams. Policy and Planning as Public Choice: Mass Transit in the United States. Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Co., 1999.


Brovarski, Edward. "Getting Around in the Old Kingdom." Calliope (September 2001): 19.

Gould, Lark Ellen. "Making Tracks: Las Vegas is Preparing for a Well-Needed Monorail System That Will Move People From Hotel to Hotel." Travel Agent (March 4, 2002): SS6SS7.

National Geographic Society. "Cleaner Living and Driving." National Geographic (May 2001): XIV.

National League of Cities. "Technology Improves City Transportation Flow, Safety." Nation's Cities Weekly (July 3, 2000): 5.

Reynolds, Francis D. "The Transportation System of The Future." The Futurist (September 2001): 44.


U.S. Department of Transportation, 400 7th Street NW, Washington, DC USA 20590 202-366-4000, Email: [email protected], <>


views updated Jun 11 2018



Sea Travel. Before the advent of the steam engine in the nineteenth century, mariners had to depend on sail power in order to propel their vessels. In the mid 1700s a ship leaving London could make the transatlantic crossing to Boston in less than eight weeks. The currents, prevailing winds, storms, and skill of the ships captain factored in the length of a voyage. A typical deep-sea ship had three masts and square sails and displaced between three hundred to four hundred tons. Although faster than ships in the previous century, these vessels averaged only two to five knots (a knot is one nautical mile per hour). In contrast an American destroyer in World War II could travel thirty-seven knots. Life aboard an eighteenth-century ship was anything but ideal, with cramped conditions, salt provisions, occasional tainted water, and the possibility of illnesses, especially dysentery, smallpox, typhoid fever, and typhus.

Inland Waterways. The major river systems in British North America provided a valuable means of transportation. The Hudson, Susquehanna, Potomac, Roanoke, Pee Dee, and Savannah rivers provided access to the interior. River craft included canoes, pirogues or dugouts, bateaux, barges, and rafts. Overall, transportation on rivers was slow. For instance, it took four to five days to travel from Augusta to Savannah, Georgia, a distance of 250 miles. Ice floe, rapids, sandbars, and floating debris represented obstacles to river travel. Yet for many colonial Americans water transportation was the only option available when it came to moving goods and produce. Especially in the South, where roads were scarce, farmers settled near streams.

Roads. The easiest means of travel in British North America was via roads. By 1717 a continuous road along the East coast connected all the Thirteen Colonies. Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Maryland possessed fairly good networks of major and ancillary roads, with the hub town of Boston connecting more than seventy inland and coastal towns. Meanwhile, in Georgia as late as 1750 few roads existed. In the 1770s thousands used the Great Wagon Road, the most traveled route in all the colonies. Begun in the 1730s, it extended eight hundred miles from Philadelphia to the backcountry of Georgia. Westward routes developed as well. During Maj. Gen. Edward Braddocks expedition to Fort Duquesne in the late spring and summer of 1755, British and colonial forces cut a road from Fort Cumberland, Maryland, to the Monongahela River in western Pennsylvania. Twenty years later Daniel Boone blazed the Wilderness Road from Fort Chiswell, Virginia, to Kentucky. Although hardly more than foot paths, Braddocks Road and the Wilderness Road helped open up the West to settlers.

Conditions. The Pennsylvania traveler Stephanie Grauman Wolf noted that the road linking Germantown with Philadelphia in the summertime was ground to fine choking dust while in the winter and spring it became nearly impassable on account of the mud. Such an observation was fairly typical of road conditions in the era. Practically all country roads were ungraded and filled with ruts. Rocks, large tree stumps, and occasional fallen branches made travel difficult. Cost-conscious road builders adhered to a policy of the path of least resistance when planning routes and therefore avoided gullies, ravines, and creeks. In urban areas travelers enjoyed better road conditions, and by 1760 most city streets were paved, usually with cobblestones or bricks. Nevertheless road travel was slow. A rider on horseback averaged seven miles per hour while a fully loaded Conestoga wagon could manage thirty miles a day. In 1750 a coach ride from Philadelphia to Portsmouth, New Hampshire (approximately 375 miles), took eighteen days. In 1783 Thomas Jefferson complained that it took him five days to make the 104-mile journey from Philadelphia to Baltimore.

Maintenance. Roads varied in size and condition given the locale. The width of the roadbed between New York and Philadelphia fluctuated between ten and twenty feet while in Georgia it was thirty-three feet. The responsibility of maintaining roads fell to city and county officials, and they employed several means to obtain the funds needed for repairs. Aside from taxes and fines, they used lotteries, as occurred in Newport, Rhode Island, and Philadelphia. Some colonies, such as Georgia, made it compulsory for all males between the ages of sixteen and sixty to work six days a year on road maintenance. Local officials usually responded to petitions of the inhabitants in deciding the location of roads, ferries, and bridges. They frowned on ferries and bridges because of the expense and whenever possible encouraged the use of fords and corduroy roads, a series of twelve-foot logs laid side by side through marshy areas. As road networks expanded, road maps became more available. New York authorities had stone markers placed along routes to inform travelers of the distances to various destinations. Travelers also received aid in the guise of The Vade Mecum for America; or, A Companion for Traders and Travellers, written by Daniel Henchman and Thomas Hancock in 1732.

Modes. Aside from walking and riding a horse, a person in eighteenth-century America had other means of traveling. Farmers used two-wheeled carts while Indian traders frequently had packhorses. During this era, the Conestoga wagon came to the forefront. German craftsmen along Conestoga Creek near Lancaster, Pennsylvania, had first developed the wagon around 1725. A high-wheeled vehicle with a canvas cover, it had a curved bottom in order to keep its load from shifting. The Conestoga could carry up to six tons, four times the capacity of the average farmers cart. (The famed prairie schooner was a lighter version developed later during the settlement of the trans-Mississippi West.) As may be expected, the Conestoga quickly became popular. By the 1770s more than ten thousand were in use in Pennsylvania while in the South Carolina backcountry there were an estimated three thousand. More-wealthy colonials living in Boston, Philadelphia, New York, or Charleston enjoyed the comfort (and status) of such vehicles as chaises, buggies, phaetons, and coaches. In fact, by the time of the American Revolution wheeled transport was available for anyone who could afford it. Several stagecoach lines operated between all the major cities in the North. The most heavily traveled route, that linking New York and Philadelphia, was served twice weekly by a stage between New Brunswick and Trenton, New Jersey.


Transportation and Communication, in Encyclopedia of the North American Colonies, volume 1, edited by Jacob Ernest Cooke (New York: Scribners, 1993), pp. 495-510.


views updated May 14 2018

Transportation is the key to successful military operations in peace and war. At both the strategic and the tactical level—on land and sea and in the air—transportation provides the essential means for assembling men, equipment, and supplies at the critical time and place. Military transportation includes planning and executing the movement of personnel, equipment, and supplies to the theater of operations (strategic transportation), within the theater (operational transportation), and on the battlefield (tactical transportation). Effective and efficient transportation involves movement control and the use of all modes of transportation: human and animal, transoceanic and inland water transport, rail, motor, air, and such other methods as pipelines and aerial tramways.

Movement control encompasses the planning, coordination, and supervision of military movement of all types and includes such subfunctions as scheduling personnel and cargo movement to maximize the use of available carriers and ensure that men and materiel arrive when and where needed; tracking the progress of movement; and regulating the frequency, speed, and density of movement in order to avoid congestion at any point along the route.

Human and animal transport have been used to move military forces since prehistoric times. Well into the twentieth century, most armies relied almost entirely upon human and animal bearers. Even today in more primitive areas, porters and pack animals are still the most effective means of moving military supplies. Able to operate under most weather conditions on all sorts of terrain, a human bearer can carry 60–80 pounds for fifteen miles in a day. Pack animals (horses, mules, bullocks, and camels) can carry about 200–250 pounds, and the standard U.S. Army four‐horse wagon of the Civil War period could haul over 1 ton of cargo. Human and animal transport is often critical to the success or failure of a military campaign. The terrible privations suffered by Washington's Continental army at Valley Forge in the winter of 1777–78 during the Revolutionary War were due more to the lack of adequate teams, wagons, and teamsters than to any absolute lack of food, clothing, and fuel in the rebellious colonies. However, by the end of the Civil War less than 100 years later, wagon transport had become a particularly effective means of moving supplies under the control of competent logisticians.

Water transport is essential to move men and materiel overseas, and both transoceanic and inland water transport can move large numbers of troops and supplies in bulk over long distances. However, most water transport is relatively slow, and its effective utilization depends upon adequate loading and unloading facilities. Water transport has played an important role in all America's wars, especially since 1898, when overseas campaigns became the norm for U.S. forces. Beginning in 1948, the U.S. Navy assumed responsibility for managing water transport for all military services, but until after World War II, the army operated its own fleet of seagoing transports and cargo vessels under the direction of the Quartermaster Corps and, after 1942, the Transportation Corps.

Rail transport can haul large tonnages over great distances in all sorts of weather, but it is manpower‐intensive, restricted to established routes, and quite vulnerable to enemy attack. Railroads were first used for military transportation in the United States during the Mexican War of 1846–48, and they became an important factor in strategic and operational mobility during the Civil War. American railroads carried almost all military troops and cargo within the continental United States in World Wars I and II, but in recent years military rail movements have been largely supplanted by motor and air transport. Until the formation of the Army Transportation Corps in 1942, U.S. military railroads were operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Motor transport is now the principal mode of military movement at the operational and tactical level. Such transport is flexible but requires a high expenditure of manpower and other resources, not only to operate and maintain the vehicles themselves but also to maintain roads capable of handling sustained military traffic. Motor transport is also relatively vulnerable to the effects of weather and enemy interdiction. The U.S. Army, which purchased its first motor vehicles in the 1890s, was one of the first armies in the world to achieve full mechanization of its tactical and logistical forces. Until 1942, motor transport was the responsibility of the Quartermaster Corps, although a distinct Motor Transport Corps existed for a short time in World War I.

Air transport first became a factor in modern warfare during World War II and has since assumed great importance. The rapid long‐distance movement of substantial numbers of men and large quantities of cargo by air has revolutionized the strategic mobility of military forces. At the same time, tactical mobility has been enormously improved by the use of helicopters. But air transport is very expensive and generally requires improved terminal facilities. The air force provides U.S. military forces with worldwide strategic airlifts and tactical airlifts of men and materiel, effecting deliveries by both air landing and parachute drop. The other services also operate their own tactical airlifts, principally in the form of troop and cargo‐carrying helicopters. The Persian Gulf War demonstrated the capabilities of adequate and properly managed air transport.

Pipelines, aerial tramways, hovercraft, and other means of transport supplement the principal modes. Pipelines, operated by the Army Quartermaster Corps, are particularly useful for the movement of bulk liquids and solids suspended in liquid (e.g., coal dust). They are, however, relatively inflexible, vulnerable to enemy action, and require substantial resources to build and maintain.

Since most modern military movement of any consequence involves more than one service, management at the highest levels is a joint undertaking. The U.S. Transportation Command, a joint headquarters established in 1987, provides movement control and the allocation of strategic transportation resources for all the services. Close links are maintained with civilian enterprises (shipping and trucking companies, the railroads, and commercial air carriers), which in fact own and operate under government contract most of the equipment and facilities needed to meet military requirements, particularly within the United States and to the overseas theaters.

Modern military forces possess great destructive power, but that power must be positioned at the decisive time and place if victory is to be attained. The only means for achieving the necessary concentration is transportation—by land, sea, or air. A military force without adequate transportation cannot achieve overwhelming superiority on the battlefield and is thus doomed to failure.
[See also Armored Vehicles; Logistics.]


Headquarters, Department of the Army , Field Manual 55‐15: Transportation Reference Data, 1963.
James A. Huston , The Sinews of War: Army Logistics, 1775–1953, 1966.
Headquarters, Department of the Army , Field Manual 54–10: Logistics—An Overview of the Total System, 1977;
Headquarters, Department of the Army , Field Manual 700–80: Logistics, 1982.

Charles R. Shrader


views updated May 29 2018



Across the Atlantic. The manner in which colonial Americas increasingly mobile population got from place to place depended on where the person was traveling; wherever possible, however, colonists preferred to travel by water. Watercraft could carry more people and goods than any form of land transport. Spain established regular trade routes with its American possessions during the sixteenth century. Travel between the home countries and their Dutch, English, and French possessions in America increased steadily during the seventeenth century as sugar plantations in the West Indies and tobacco plantations in the Chesapeake became well-established, producing lucrative yearly crops for export. As colonial commerce increased, shipwrights learned to make their vessels larger, faster, and more seaworthy. As transatlantic traffic increased, each European nation developed systems of regulations designed to keep the flow of goods and profits out of other nations hands. Englands piracy acts, along with those of other European nations, also helped make it safer to travel across the Atlantic in peacetime. The speed of transatlantic travel also increased during the seventeenth century thanks to improved ship designs and greater knowledge of Atlantic winds and currents. By 1740 a traveler embarking for London from Boston could expect to reach his destination within eight weeks, a good speed by the standards of the day. Travel conditions on shipboard were poor, however: except for the few who could afford private quarters, passengers had to stay with the crew. The area was unsanitary, poorly ventilated, hot in summer, cold in winter, and cramped. Food was often worm-eaten by the journeys end and usually consisted of hard biscuits, salt pork, and peas. Drinking water was often scarce and contaminated as well.

Coastal and River Navigation. Throughout the period 16001754 travel from colony to colony was likewise accomplished most quickly and easily by boat. In the early seventeenth century vast tracts of virgin forest separated the small centers of English settlement in New England, New York, and the Chesapeake. French and Spanish settlements were similarly separated. Only the most hardy souls could make a trip between them by land. Everywhere in colonial America settlements sprang up first near navigable rivers. As the population and commerce grew, a bustling coastal trade arose with it, usually carried on by small operators who plied the inlets and coastal waters in single-masted pinnaces or schooners. Travel up the rivers was more difficult. Colonists built a variety of canoes, barges, and rafts to manage river voyages. Two types of river vessel were common along rivers of southeastern English, Spanish, and French colonies: dugout canoes called pirogues carried small cargoes, while long (up to forty feet), flat-bottomed boats known as bateaux handled larger loads. Further north in New England and Canada the birch-bark canoe was preferred. French traders often traveled the Saint Lawrence River and the Great Lakes in eight-man canoes up to thirty-five feet long. River travel everywhere in America was slow and fraught with danger. To travel inland a boat crew had to paddle or pole upstream. Floating debris could tip a boat; submerged rocks could sink it; and sandbars could catch and hold it fast. Ice floes in northern rivers made travel impossible during the winter. Nevertheless, rivers served colonists everywhere as routes for their goods, travel, and communication.

Travel by Land. On land travel between seventeenth-century colonies could be difficult as well. The number and condition of roads varied widely from colony to colony, depending heavily on the density of settlement and the support provided by the various colonial legislatures. In many places roadbeds were poor and bridges few. During the rainy seasons shallow fords became deep, treacherous torrents, and roads became impassable tracks of mud. Persons on horseback or on foot might make the journey at other times of the year, but the going was still tough and became tougher the further inland one traveled. In the winter of 17381739, for example, it took George Whitefield more than a month to journey 660 miles from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Charleston, South Carolina, by horseback (an eleven-hour automobile trip today), and his route took him through almost trackless forests, treacherous swamps, and flooded rivers. Some of these roads could be traveled by sturdy ox- or horse-drawn wagons, especially those developed specifically for eighteenth-century hauling by German immigrants living in the Conestoga region near Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Conestoga wagons trekked further each year as roads stretched more into the backcountry. By the 1760s one of the longest roads, the Great Wagon Road, stretched nearly eight hundred miles along old Indian trails through western Pennsylvania and Virginias Shenandoah Valley to Georgia. The longest road in North America was the Camino Real, which connected Mexico City to Santa Fe, an eighteen-hundred-mile trip which took wagon trains six months to complete. By 1700 a well-developed system of shorter roads was developing in the coastal Chesapeake, Middle Colonies, and New England. This system extended further inland every year as commerce and communication among new towns demanded it. Wealthy Americans traveled these roads in elegant carriages which they imported from Europe or purchased from colonial craftsmen. Travel by horseback could take a person where a carriage could not, but horses were not always cheap. Ordinary farming families often used oxen rather than horses to draw their plows and wagons. Poorer colonists who wanted to travel from place to place or colony to colony often had to walk.


William L. Richter, The ABC-CLIO Companion to Transportation in America (Santa Barbara, Cal.: ABC-CLIO, 1995);

Ian K. Steele, The English Atlantic, 16751740: An Exploration of Communication and Community (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986).


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Transportation systems move goods and people around the world. Physical distribution of goods is accomplished by various means: truck, railroad, airplane, ship or boat, and pipeline, or a combination of these methods. Surface and air transportation systems that are widely used to transport people include automobiles, bicycles, rail, air, ship or boat, bus, and rapid-transit systems.


Railroads are a low-cost mode of transportation for large quantities of heavy and bulky items. Since rail lines are stationary, other forms of transportation move goods to

and from the rail site. Piggyback services enable trucking companies and railroads to work cooperatively, loading trailers on rail cars for shipment. Trucks, a flexible transportation method, can handle large or small shipments of almost any type of product, including goods that require special handling. Trucking costs are relatively low for short distances and easy-to-handle products. Ships and boats move large quantities and large products at a low cost. Ships are relatively slow and must be used in combination with trucks or railroads to move goods to shipping centers. On inland waterways, barges handle bulky and nonperishable items such as coal, grain, and cement at relatively low prices. Barges are slow, but they can move large quantities of goods.

For rapid delivery over long distances, air transportation is a logical but more costly choice. Larger products and large quantities of a product are moved by cargo planes while smaller parcels are carried on many types of planes, including commercial flights. Air shipment is suited to highly perishable products or products that are needed quickly. Gas, oil, and water move in large quantities over long distances by pipeline. Pipelines are expensive to construct and difficult to maintain, but once built, they are an inexpensive method for transportation of large volumes.

Using more than one mode of transportation (inter-modal freight) improves efficiency in movement. Trucks move trailers to a rail or ship loading site; trucks and railroads move goods from pipelines. This combining of modes increases shipping volume dramatically.


Various systems offer choices for transporting people. The automobile is a major "people-mover," but rail systems, bicycles, airlines, ships, and various mass-transit systems move hundreds of millions of people who travel short and long distances each day.


Automobile transport requires an integrated network of roadways and relies on traffic-control systems for efficiency and safety. In many countries, that infrastructure enables people to travel efficiently and economically. Nevertheless, congestion of traffic and bottlenecks contribute to poor air quality, increased energy consumption, and a diminished quality of life. A major concern is how to lessen the impact of transportation systems on the quality of life.

Bicycles and Buses

Because of congestion, bicycles are a popular means of travel in some localities. Within a city, for example, delivery persons find bicycles or motorized bicycles an efficient means of moving small packages. Buses are an economical public transportation system within and between cities. In some areas where auto travel is difficult, buses meet travel needs for millions of people each day.

Rail Systems

The railroad revolutionized transportation in the United States in the nineteenth century, but passenger travel by train declined precipitously after World War II (19391945). Amtrak was created in 1971 as a way to reduce automobile traffic congestion. The rail company, however, was not able to maintain ridership and could not revitalize the passenger-train industry in the United States.

High-speed rail passenger systems were pioneered in Japan in 1964. European countries eventually followed, and in 2000 high-speed service in the United States was introduced with the Acela Express, running between Washington, D.C., and Boston. High-speed trains require high-quality track, good roadbeds, and right of way to avoid highway intersections.

Urban areas depend on rapid-transit systems with surface, elevated, or underground (subway) railways, or a combination of these means. Electrically powered, self-propelled rapid-transit systems move large numbers of passengers in a single train, an efficient and environmentally less damaging mode of transportation than automobile travel. Surface or elevated light-rail systems have received renewed support as urban areas seek efficient and energy-saving means of transporting masses of people.

Monorail systems are one type of people-mover system that uses a single track and vehicles wider than the guideway that supports them. Monorails are usually elevated systems, but they may run on the surface, below surface, or in subway tunnels. Subways, surface systems, and elevated systems are widely used for commuting in urban and suburban settings.

Air Transport

Air transport grew dramatically from the 1930s, with the development of a mail-transport system by the U.S. Postal Service. Mail carriers then quickly expanded to carry passengers and cargo to augment their airmail income. After jet service was introduced in 1959, fast, cross-country passenger service became commonplace. Since then, the growth of smaller carriers, the mergers of larger carriers, dramatic increases in the number of passengers, low-fare carriers, and growth in the number of cities served by airlines characterized the air-passenger industry.

Cruise Ships

Passenger travel by boat and ship has evolved primarily into the cruise industry. With increased air travel, many passenger lines lost market share and went bankrupt by the mid-twentieth century. Cruise-ship companies then began to create an image of a "fun ship," which attracted many passengers who had never traveled by ship. The emphasis is on the voyage itself, not transportation to a particular destination. A few superliners, such as those of the Cunard line, provide luxury travel across oceans, but travel by ship is now for vacations, not everyday travel.


Goals for mass transportation in the future include greater carrying capacities at an affordable cost and in environmentally friendly modes. Intelligent transportation systems will promote better management of routes, electronic payment, crash prevention and safety, and improved emergency management.

see also National Transportation Safety Board ; Staggers Rail and Motor Carrier Acts of 1980


Monorail Society. (n.d.). Definition of monorail. Retrieved December 14, 2005, from

Transportation history. (n.d.). Retrieved December 14, 2005, from Duke University Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library, Ad*Access Project Web site:

U.S. Department of Transportation. (2003, September). Strategic plan, 20032008. Retrieved December 14, 2005, from

Betty J. Brown

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