Transportation by one of its many modes is essential to most forms of life. How it is achieved by humans has evolved along with other aspects of life. Modern life styles include large measures of various modes from walking to airline trips. Contemporary transport is inextripally woven into current human activity.
As an introduction one should examine how the current system has developed and operates in your area. For the examination we have used a position on the north eastern side of North America with the fll knowledge that one cannot encompass the world in a simple note, and have tried to maintain a general outlook. The geography of an area, its climate, demographics, resources and transportation are intimately connected. They along with its people shape the economy and way of life.
Current scholarship suggests that a land bridge from Siberia to Alaska was the means of the earliest settlement of the Americas. There are other theories, for precolumbian expeditions and migrations. The other probable transport mode for early migration and settlement is by sea.
Water borne transport provided the earliest historically recorded trips to the Americas by Europeans. The native peoples who occupied the continent before the Europeans had a system of tracks and canoe routes for movement. The rivers and lakes provided waterway access to most of the eastern and extreme western parts of the continent. The plains and desert areas were travelled mostly on foot. Early on the Spanish and others made major trips using horses and by walking.
The Europeaans soon introduced wheeled vehicles drawn by animals. These required better roads than tracks used for walking or animals. The road system however took centuries to develop and other modes provided the early long haul movements. The system as we know it today is largely a creation of the last century even though the basic routes and patterns are usually much older.
A trunk road system was the basis of Roman rule. In many places in Europe the routes date back over two millenia. There were trackways that had their origins many centuries before that.
It has now been well established that Columbus was not the first European to cross the Atlantic. The discovery of the remains of the Norse settlement at L'Anse aux Medows, Nefoundland confirms the Norse Sagas of their travels about 1000AD. Sitchin, Hyderdal & many others hypothesize earlier travel across the Atlantic, especially to Central and South America.
The Americas, including the inhabited islands entered history late. The European conquest began by Columbus in 1492. Most of the modern settlement & transportation network began then. The aboriginals had many internal & coastal transport routes. Many of these were used by the Europeans & further developed in modern times. Others including the Norse made earlier voyages. The earliest recorded voyage from Britain was John Cabot to Newfoudland in 1494.
Most of the current N.A. population originated in Europe, & Africa. They came by originally ship and lately by airplane. Much of the aboriginal poplu- lation was destroyed by desease and conquest. Central America and Mexico had the largest populations and urbanized areas. Peru and the west coast of South America also had extensive development. There were road systems but no horses or wheeled vehicles. Various forms of canoes and rafts as well as human and animal pack transport were used.
The European settlement of N.A. began with the Eastern seaboard harbours. The oldest historical European city is Santo Domingo on Hispanola. St Augustine is the oldest in the US, and St John`s in Canada.
In Canada and the US waterways were the early forms of easy movement. They located most of the urban centres. The early roads connected settlements to the waterways. The transport revolution followed the use of mechanical power for propulsion. Steamboats appeared in the early 1800's. The first challange to the waterways came from the railways. They set major transport patterns after the 1850's. Roads then became connections to the railways.
After 1920 automobiles and motor trucks become major players in transport. The US 1956 Highway Act established the Interstate System. The Trans Canada Highway and the major Provincial Highway Nets are direct outgrowths of post WWII building that began in the 1930's. The importance of motor vehicles in daily life and overall transport is still increasing in most countries.
The airline network began in the 1930's. It became a mjor force after WWII. Aircraft technology and construction expanded greatly during 1930's & `40's. The current air age began in the late 1950's with the Boeing 707 and the Douglas DC-8. These airplanes were so productive that they made long haul piston engined aircraft, ocean passenger liners, & long haul passenger rail obsolete. Civilian supersonic aircraft have not and may never be accepted.
We now have relatively stable transport technology. Most vehicle speeds and sizes approach practical maxima. The basic networks are in place but subject to adjustment. The problems now are capacity, maintenance, network adjustment and regulation. A contemporary phenomenon is the substitution of telecommuni- cations for person transport. Slight shifts in transport & communication technology make continuing changes in land use and linkage patterns.
North America has a well developed system that provides access to most habitable areas by road. The Canadian north is a remaining frontier, but it has little undeveloped airable land. The major changes are shifts in the system due to obsolesence, changes in capacity requirements, technological and management improvements. The effects of automation, mechanization, computers, telecommunication, and demographics are not well understood in 1996.
In many areas we are near the end of the major transport network expansion. This has been going on for melenia. The expansion has followed the growth of the population & the changes in transport technology. Each mode requires its own unique network. The traffic must reach from its origins and travel to its destinations. This requires extensive local as well as major connceting networks and interchange points. The local parts of the network shift with demographics & mode. There will continue to be expansion of these parts of the systems. Telecom has probably replaced transport as the critical linkages
The expansion today in North America and world wide is to service growing urban populations. Urbanization is proceeding rapidly in most countries. It is especially rapid in thoses countries with large and growing populations. Urban Transportation has long been a major inhibitor of growth. The systems developed in Europe and the US have been exported all over the world. They are expensive and there are doubts whether or not they are appicable in less affulent economies or whether they are sustainable.
Globally the population explosion continues. China with the world's largest population has taken positive steps to reduce growth. Population growth is relatively slow in the richer, developed economies. The combination of economic as well as population growth suggests that there will be an expansion of trade and transportation to serve the growth situations. North America is not growing as rapidly as other parts of the Americas. Freer trade between countries suggests that there will be increases in goods transport. Most goods transport is paralleled to some extent by business and passenger movements. Probably the biggest increases in long distance passenger travel will come from increased tourism.
Many coutries like Argentina, Austraila, Brazil, Canada, Russsia, USA, and many African countries still have undeveloped hinterland that may require some major new networks in the future. Other high population density countries do not have modern networks and many population centres are not connected by roads of modern standards. There are also many areas of the world where road building is difficult and too expensive for the local economy. It is therefor probable that there will be some road building in these underdeveloped areas in the future if peace and economic progress prevails.
The major unknowns in future trends are dependent on econcomic, energy, environmental, telecommunication effects on trade and travel. At present the motor car, bus and truck on roads appear to be the dominant transport modes of the immediate future.
End to date, ams 990822