Transportation planning

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History of Transportation

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Read: History of Transportation in the US.

Transportation Technology

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For most of history, land transportation was exclusively walking, horses, and carriages. Commercially, most trade happened through shipping[1] since around the 13th century BCE[2].

In the late 1800s trains began to become very popular for both moving goods and people around large areas[3][4]. This railroad boom expanded the connection and potential size of countries, particularly in the new world[5]. Just a few decades earlier, in the 1850s, urban areas were having a similar revolution with one of the first kinds of mass transit--- the streetcar--- also expanding the potential size of cities with "streetcar suburbs", which could sprawl out much farther from jobs than a tradition residential area[6][7].

In the late 1800s/early 1900s, both automobiles and bicycles started to become more popular, with cars becoming most popular in more industrialized areas like western Europe, North America, and China--- while the bike became seemingly universally popular elsewhere due to their lack of a need for infrastructure[8].

Transportation Policy

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US Transportation Policy

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Read: DOT DOT History

MAP 21
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Read: Map 21

Modes of Transportation

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Land transportation, as land is where we live, is the most diverse. There are many different categories of land transit and commerce modes of transport. Following is a non-exhaustive list:

  • Trams and cars in a road with people walking in the sidewalk.
    Trams, cars, and people in a road showing the types of transport covered.
    Automotive vehicles: automotive vehicles like cars and trucks are very common all over the world and are both generally efficient as well as being rather dangerous and detrimental to people in many cases. Busses are also a common implementation of the automobile, that is able to use the advantages of a large vehicle that is usually only seen on rail, and it allows one to go anywhere with a road or trail. However, busses cannot match the speed or efficiency of rail[9][10].
  • Walking: obviously one of the most popular ways of getting around, walking. It is both free and effective and now city-planners are trying to incorporate this mode of transport more in cities in the "Walkable Cities", "Urbanist", or "Livable Cities" movements. In this category one might include skateboards and other generally walking, or slightly higher, speed more efficient forms of moving one person with minimal added weight/mechanism.
  • Biking: biking is also becoming very popular in modern cities in the "Urbanist" and "Livable Cities" movements. It is important to note that bike infrastructure is very different to biking infrastructure and it is import to actually study good bike developments to design for "bikable" areas.
  • Small motor vehicles: things like motorbikes are used to transport very small numbers of people faster than walking or running.
  • Rail: many vehicles used to transport both people and goods use rails; these include but are not limited to trams, trains, light Rain, subway, and similar vehicles, as well as novel rail solutions, like animal cars (usually horse-drawn), "hyperloop" type transit (which have been heavily discredited [citation needed]), and hanging rail cars. Rail is fast, efficient, and a proven solution for moving a lot of stuff, fast.

Aerial transit, despite being the newest addition to transportation infrastructure is still rather well thought out and funded. There are 3 major types of aerial vehicle:

  • Winged aircraft: winged aircraft are the most popular mode of transit through the air, both for moving people, and goods. There are two types of winged aircraft: powered, and unpowered. Powered aircraft have the fastest top speed of any transit terrestrially, they can go almost anywhere with an airstrip and there is at least one in every country (excluding 5 European microstates that are serviced slightly outside their boarders)[11]. There are also unpowered winged aircraft, and while they came first, they are not relevant to modern transit.
  • Helicopters: helicopters and autogyros have many advantages and disadvantages, one of the major reasons to choose a helicopter is that, unlike a plane, you can land anywhere with even a very small patch of flat land. These are, for civilian applications, mostly only used for hospital, firefighting, news, and tourist purposes--- and not for transit except in very specific cases[12].
  • Lighter than air: dirigibles used to be used for long distance travel, however, they have barely been used since the early 1900s. Some companies now are working on using them for cargo, but this is not a very popular mode of transit or trade at the moment[13].


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All transit through the water is in ships and boats. Large ships are used for carrying cargo at cheap prices because of the economy of scale, while small boats are used mostly for individual travel[14]. There are a few more modes of water transit that are very important to cities:

  • Intracity ferries: in some cities built around large rivers, like London, medium size boats and ferries are used to transport people around inside the city, and in some places with many canals, there are small boat taxi services, see Amsterdam. It is good to note you can have both, like in Venice, where there is both an extensive bus and taxi service in the water, as many places aren't connected by road[15]. This only really works in very specific areas, but it excels in cost efficiency when available[16].
  • Island ferries: ferries that connect two areas of land that are not economically related can be very important public infrastructure, like a train or highway. These are usually between islands, but don't have to be, and can be easier to maintain and more feasible than bridges in many cases.
  • Intercity/State ferries: ferries used to be very popular, but since the advent of the car and pressure from railroads, these services mostly all shutdown, however there are some popping back up.


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History of Transportation Planning

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Chicago Area Transportation Study (CATS) Read: MPO


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Read: Theory of Marginal Productivity

Heavy Traffic on Texas Highway 610 (right next to Katy Freeway)

There are many theories that pertain to transportation planning, these cover what to and not to do when designing or upgrading infrastructure. One of the most important theories about car planning is induced demand, as it is relevant to transportation planning: people are more likely to take the method that is the fastest and easiest, so if you add a lane to a highway when the highway has too much traffic, traffic will increase to fill the void as people will take the immediate momentary lull to switch to driving on the highway until it has been filled up[17]. You can see this in action on the Katy Freeway, outside Houston, Texas.

There are many other theories in transportation planning about all sort of transit, also many theories from other studies that can be applied, like the tragedy of the commons. The tragedy of the commons says that, should a number of people enjoy unfettered access to a finite, valuable resource such as a pasture, they will tend to over-use it, and may end up destroying its value altogether[18]. This can be applied to road-space or land use, if you keep giving land to cars and you let cars do whatever, eventually, it would be unsafe, slow, and generally worse to drive than if rules and regulations were put in place.

Important Formulas

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Portal:Urban Studies and Planning

  1. McGrail, Sean (2001). Boats of the World : From the Stone Age to Medieval Times. Oxford University Press.
  2. "5.4 – Maritime Transportation | The Geography of Transport Systems". 2017-11-04. Retrieved 2024-05-25.
  3. Mark Twain (1872). Roughing It. American Publishing Company. p. 13.
  4. Harter, Jim (2005). World railways of the nineteenth century: a pictorial history in Victorian engravings. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 978-0-8018-8089-6. 
  5. Albert W. Niemi, U.S. economic history (1980) p 71
  6. Caves, Roger W., ed (2005). Encyclopedia of the city. Abingdon, Oxon, OX ; New York, NY: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-25225-6. 
  7. Dunbar, Charles (1967). Buses, trolleys & trams : buses, trolleys & trams. Internet Archive. London : P. Hamlyn. 
  8. Chen, Wu; Carstensen, Trine Agervig; Wang, Ranran; Derrible, Sybil; Rueda, David Rojas; Nieuwenhuijsen, Mark J.; Liu, Gang (2022-08-18). "Historical patterns and sustainability implications of worldwide bicycle ownership and use". Communications Earth & Environment 3 (1): 1–9. doi:10.1038/s43247-022-00497-4. ISSN 2662-4435. 
  9. McCurry, Justin (2015-04-21). "Japan's maglev train breaks world speed record with 600km/h test run". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2024-05-27.
  10. Vaughan, Michael (2012-08-15). "The world's fastest bus service? Meet the 250 km/h Superbus". CTVNews. Retrieved 2024-05-27.
  11. "Pros & Cons of Air Freight: Cost, Speed, Shipment Visibility and More". Retrieved 2024-05-27.
  12. "What Is a Helicopter? (Grades 5-8) - NASA". 2014-05-21. Retrieved 2024-05-27.
  13. Tom (2023-08-09). "The airships promising a 'new era' for cargo delivery". FINN - The Aviation Industry Hub | FINN. Retrieved 2024-05-27.
  14. Rollins, Brandon (2020-07-10). "This Is Why Sea Shipping Is Cheaper Than Air Shipping". Retrieved 2024-05-27.
  15. "Venice water bus services - boat maps, fares & times 2024". Retrieved 2024-05-27.
  16. "Cost Of Water Taxi vs. Cost Of Land Taxi". Cruise Critic Community. 2011-11-28. Retrieved 2024-05-27.
  17. Schneider, Benjamin (September 6, 2018) "CityLab University: Induced Demand", Bloomberg
  18. "Tragedy of the Commons: Examples & Solutions | HBS Online". Business Insights Blog. 2019-02-06. Retrieved 2024-05-27.