» Geography of the Transportation geography

Geography of the Transportation geography

THE DISCIPLINE OF GEOGRAPHY aims to describeand explain the nature of spatial variation as observedon the Earth’s surface. There have been a number ofways proposed to divide the discipline, but in the end itis easy to see a human geography (the human use ofthe Earth’s surface), a physical geography (naturalprocesses on the Earth’s surface), and an area wherethe interest is on the human-environment interface.There are also a whole series of techniques and toolsfor studying each of these subdivisions. Geographersanalyze how human activities are distributed on thesurface of the earth, why they are located where theyare, and what implications stem from these distributions.Just about everything in the world of geographyhas some relationship with transportation. The formand organization of both settlements and the productionof goods is intimately and intricately linked to theability to move people and commodities across space.It was the Greeks who believed that the origin, growth,and development of cities was a direct consequence ofhuman wants and needs. Within this context, we caneasily see that it is the existence of cities that creates ademand for transport. At the same time, the developmentof transport within a given region leads to 2 interestingoutcomes.On the 1 hand, transportation serves as a limit tothe development of an area. It does this by establishingfunctional limits to movement of people and commoditieswithin the city sphere. At the same time, the presenceof operational limits plays a critical role inshaping the space these very limits bound. This impactis accomplished through a variety of social and economicfeedback mechanisms. Looked at slightly differently,we might say that the size and scale of the anygiven region is directly related to the development ofthe transportation function within that region.For most people living before the Industrial Revolution, life began and ended in 1 place. Communitieswere largely self-sufficient entities whose geographicboundaries (both physical and political) weregenerally determined by the distance 1 could easilywalk. This kept most urban forms remarkably compact.It also makes it easy to see how the early developmentof both economic and political geography wasclosely tied to the core and periphery concept. Therewas no public transport in cities at this time, and intercitytravel was rough and restricted. As James Joyce indicatedin The Story of Passenger Transport in Britain,travel during the Middle Ages meant that “you couldeasily trip into a ditch or get stuck in the mud, and youcould easily lose your way along unmarked roads thattook an indeterminate course across open and desolatecountryside.”If, on the other hand, you were a person of rank,you might just as well fall victim to some roadside thiefready to relieve you of any valuables as you made yourway across the unprotected lands between urban centers.Even in some rural settings, the most honest ofpeasants might throw stones at you, not from any personalmotives, but simply because you were a stranger.And in the age of isolation, strangers were never to betrusted.Transportation is a fundamentally geographicalphenomenon. But that does not mean that it does notreflect strong economic undertones. This becomes clearas soon as you remember that the focus of transportationis on the movement of people and commoditiesthrough space and thus through time. In simplestterms, transportation is connectivity. When connectivityisn't important, there is little reason for transport,and life goes on at singular locations. But once there issome reason for connection, a host of important factorscome into play. Every movement starts somewhere,ends somewhere, and follows a certain routethrough space and time. Every movement affects, andis affected by, conditions at the origin, the destination,and the various conditions that exist along the way.Transportation, then, plays a significant role in thedevelopment of space as both a factor and a process.As such, the study of transportation must take placeacross a range of spatial scales, from local to regionalto global and across a range of purposes, from social,to commercial, to military.It has been common to place transportation geographywithin the broader human geographic context.This is because its conceptual framework is centeredhuman activity within a context of overcoming spacesubject to various physical geographic limitations.Transportation geography is generally considered tohave 2 operating themes. The first focuses on transportationand its role in the organization of space. Thatis, how transportation has affected the shape and characterof a place and how it has given place meaning.The best example of this comes from just saying “SanFrancisco”; most of us first think of the hills and thetrolley cars that operate there or perhaps the GoldenGate BridgeOr 1 might think of Lombard Street with its numerousturns back and forth across a fairly steep landscape.Say “Venice” (Italy) and most people think ofcanals and interesting river taxis. This, then, is the contextwithin which transportation begins to shape alandscape and help give it meaning as place. This categorycan in turn be subdivided into how transportationis organized geographically and how transportation organizesother human activities. Examples of the former(spatial organization of transportation) include networks,corridors, hierarchies, hinterlands, inter-modalconnections, and so on. Examples of the latter (spatialaspects of human society and economy that affect andare affected by transportation) include land use patterns,industrial location, urban hierarchies, informationflows, shopping, regional development, trade, andthe natural environment.


This spatially focused theme of transportation geographyplayed a major role in the development of locationtheory as a field of inquiry in the early 20th century.Location theorists wanted to develop models thatcould explain the location of cities and believed that byunderstanding the where, why, and when of economiclocation they might come to understand the spatialcontext of the system of cities and thus predict futurelocations of human activity. Several distinctly differentapproaches are used to describe and explain transportationand spatial organization.One approach is to build conceptual theories andgraphic models as a basis for understanding theprocesses that lead to given spatial outcomes. The secondapproach is historical and therefore has an interestin both descriptive and process activities as seenthrough existing patterns and the relationships betweenthem. There is also a third approach that is empirical,that is, data collection, mapping, graphing,statistical analysis, and so on.The second theme of transportation geography isthe 1 applied to real-world problem-solving needs.This approach, which is heavily but not exclusivelyquantitative, overlaps with the disciplines of land useplanning, business and industrial location, and engineering.It is common for transportation geographersto use a number of basic transportation models to dealwith fundamentally geographic questions. Importantquestions include topics such as where is traffic generatedand where does it go, what mode or means oftransport is chosen, what routes are/could be/should befollowed, where are networks constructed, and whereare activities located.Most of these questions can be addressed with variouskinds of models including descriptive models(where is it?), explanatory models (why there?), predictivemodels (where will it?), and prescriptive (whereshould it?). Geographic information systems (GIS)are widely used as a platform for many geographictransportation models, as is increasing use of globalpositioning systems (GPS). This branch of transportationgeography has become 1 of the fasting-growingfields recently, although you may see it under a differentname. Today, we often use the term logistics torefer to this quantitative side of transportation andtransportation analysis.Each of these approaches is, in its own distinctway, an attempt to tell a story about the effect transportationhas on spatial patterns and relationshipswithin any geographic space. It is important to rememberthat technology plays a critical role in transportationgeography and the influence transportation has onthe organization of human space. The primary result oftechnological advances that take place in transportationis that they redefine space. It took Marco Polo and his uncle 4 years to travel to China. Today, wecan board an airplane in Rome and land in Beijing in 6hours or so.This influence is also not limited to just physicalthings. Improvements in transportation technologyalso influence communication. In the 21st century, thetransportation of ideas has become just as significantas the movement of goods. And there are some thatmight say it is even more important, for it is throughthe influence of transportation that all territory is describedand ultimately limited, whether national orcommercial in character.


Movements between 1 place and another are dependentupon the existence of transportation routes ornetworks, where the networks contain a number ofnodes (place points). Geographically, each node representseither a place, some starting point of destinationand intersections, usually considered as intervening opportunities in the sense that you have a choice to makeabout how to proceed. There is also the set of links(lines) that exist between each node and each intersection.There could be any number of these depending ontheir uniqueness or importance, but they all representthe paths available for travel from 1 place to another.Transportation networks have 4 spatial characteristics.One is network deviousness, or the degree towhich the lengths of the individual links differ from thestraight line distances between the places being linkedtogether. Another characteristic is network density, orthe number of routes in the area. In transportationstudies, density refers to both the number and thelength of the routes available. This implies that the sizeof the area is important, as are any physical barriersthat may exist such that deviousness is also affected.Also important are the mode of transportationbeing considered and the size and scale of economic development.Connectivity refers to the degree to whichdirect movements are possible over the network. Networksthat are most connected are those in which thedirectness of routes joining up pairs of places is maximized.More connected networks tend to consist of circuitnetworks in which there is more than 1 path orroute between places.Less connected networks tend to be dominated bybranching networks or trees in which there is only onepossible path between places. Connectivity is typicallyrelated to the size (and attractiveness) of the area beingconnected and the degree of economic development.Hierarchy is the recognition that certain nodes and certainlinks in the network are more important than others.This hierarchy develops as a result of developmentand the economic specialization of the economic landscapethat ensues.Transportation pricing usually reflects 1 of threeapproaches: F.O.B., C.I.F. or basing point. F.O.B.stands for free on board and represents a situationwhere the purchaser pays the transport cost; that is, theprice of the product is its market price plus transportationcost.C.I.F. stands for cost, insurance, and freight andoccurs when the seller assumes the transportation costgenerally and 1 uniform price exists in the market.C.I.F. usually occurs because there is a large volume ofsales, it permits competition across all markets, andsome firms do not like to compete on a price basis,marketing other factors as important.Basing point is a practice where the transportcharges are established from a particular point in azone or a region. Such a price scheme is legal as long asthe purchaser has the option of buying F.O.B. and sellersdo not collude (previously agree) about the baseprice. Generally, transportation costs are based on twocharges. Terminal charges represent the cost of loadingand unloading the carrier, while line-haul costs are associatedwith transporting the commodity from its originto its destination.
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