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National Transportation and the Economy

Introduction

Transportation is integral as part of infrastructure to the economy of the nation as it is required for the numerous sectors of the economy to prosper. All the main sectors of the economy including the service sector, manufacturing industries and agriculture rely heavily on transportation. Its importance is further highlighted by its recognition as one of the main sectors of the economy, much of which can be attributed to its commercialization over the past few years. Developed countries have formed the basis of their development on improved infrastructure thus enabling substantial growth.

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Rodrigue, Comtois and Slack (2006, pp. 83-84) document only too well the implications of efficiency and lack of it in transportation with a sort of conveyor belt of results from direct to indirect on the economy. They also point out that the constant evolution of the sector and subsequently the interlinking of various modes mean that modular transport has shaped economic growth rather than the advent of any particular individual mode.

1980-2000: National transportation

During the onset of this period the government completed the interstate highway connections (The National Atlas of the United States of America, 2009, para. 9) and this was subsequently followed by a vast increase in the ownership of vehicles. The highway connections increased the variety from which transporters could choose as to which mode they wanted to use. It was not just in road transport that the quality and reach of a mode was improving, this could also be seen in other modes like rail with faster speeds and also air transport with larger planes and increased reach in both.

Therefore, the effects of such national transportation had an effect on both inland and cross-border trade. As Rodrigue, Comtois and Slack (2006, pp. 89-90) note the increased interconnection has both negative and positive outcomes since they lead to specialization due to comparative advantages. The production of certain products decreased while others were bound to increase and as the United States Department of State (2009, para. 2) reports the 1982 oil crisis occasioning a drop in local production and a steep rise in consumption of imports.

Increasing levels of trade meant that the demand for transportation increased and in order to insure against losses arising from ineffective and congested modes of transport, the public and private sectors sought to try and increase mobility. By foreseeing increased demand, especially after the recession of the early 1980’s, some investors were able to invest by lending money to the government as infrastructure bonds while others used the opportunity to commercialize and gain from transportation.

Costs incurred due to capacity building of the sector contributed to the escalation of the budget deficit as more money was sought to finance the growth of the sector mainly through the bonds (Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, 2000, para. 4). The reliability of such avenues as roads meant that growth in terms of usage of trucks to transport especially small-scale cargo gained prominence. Courier firms with the specialized nature of their deliveries expanded their reach to become national and also international. This is because of the requirements of delivery of goods and also the distance of travel of the goods being large or intercontinental thus requiring air transport.

The period witnessed vast growth in the airline industry as it became progressively cheaper and more convenient to travel long distances by air. In terms of passengers, many opted to switch from buses and rail to the airlines over long distances. As a result many of the airports were upgraded and some were also built a new in view of the stage of development of the mode from expansion and standardization to integration as illustrated by Rodrigue, Comtois and Slack (2006, p. 95). Thus they were also interconnected with other modes like road and rail, especially the subway due to their locations that remain mostly centralized.

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The growth of the airline industry served up to decrease the volume of road transport for use in the ferrying of other freight thereby decreasing congestion and increasing the popularity of air travel necessitating for its rapid expansion by the entry into the market by more providers. This was also mainly due to the deregulation of the industry in 1978 which freed it from government control allowing market forces to shape the business as observed by Stanford Education(2005, para.14-18). Due to the growing use of the airport, it also became a hub of vehicles for the loading and offloading of cargo. These mostly specialized vehicles were also used in the improvement of service delivery to passengers and in maintenance of the airlines and the airport.

However, due to the fragile nature of the sector towards in the last decade of the century and faced with issues like the Gulf War and the constant need to restructure, the industry experienced a sort of downturn. While a drop in demand does not usually mean a shift toward other modes, it is usually reflective of the state of the economy during hard times as people opt not to travel to cut costs. So as to sustain survival of the industry airlines started to form alliances in the 1990’s thus expanding their network and coverage and giving the traveler more options.

Maritime and inland waterway transport continued to be used to transport a huge proportion of cargo as compared to the mostly recreation passengers using this mode. Ferries still remained in use but with the development of road transport through building of bridges and more people owning cars their use slightly declined. Most of the bulky products like oil and manufactured goods are still transported by international waterways and entered the country through ports where other modes of inland transport and also inland waterways supplemented them.

Their importance is highlighted by the measures taken to curb the freezing of the St. Lawrence Seaway during winter in order to prevent losses arising from inability to access the channel. Most of the industries that are located near such seaways do so because of their transport needs and thus even with the development of other modes of transport; the seaways continue to be the main mode used while the others just supplement it.

The pipeline for supply of natural gas and oil also benefited from the supplementary modes development while it itself was upgraded further to increase capacity and efficiency. The road network eased access to such products and their demand through more automobile use while also opening up states like Alaska. They also relied on the water mode to establish these pipelines in locations of off-shore drilling.

The train system especially the subway had started to gain more prominence in usage in the 1970’s.Initially in terms of infrastructure, little was done when compared with other modes, the vehicles used continued to be improved with newer and faster ones but towards the close of the century many cities started improving and also introducing their own networks (Shafto, 2009, para.1-13). Within the large cities the Metro systems played a major role in the decongestion of traffic especially easing the load during rush hours and coping with the population pressure as urban areas swelled.

Telecommunications is perhaps the most rapidly growing aspect in term of transportation and how it affects other modes. This period has come to be shaped by the Internet, its rapid development, spread and increasing influence on people’s lives. With the onset of the new age of telecommunication, mediums of communication like the letter and wired telephones were deemed traditional as the use of things like the cell phones and electronic mail replaced them with ruthless efficiency. Coupled with its high affinity for technological innovation to improve its delivery and efficiency, it soon developed a kind of must-have association for its products and usage.

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Such developments reduced the influence of mainstream transport in the relay of information and reduced physical links that had been established for communication mediums like the telephone and fax. The contribution to the ease of congestion in traffic was huge and has continued to grow. Courier services saw the traffic of letters and other communications drop while the demand for transport of goods both locally and internationally grew due to increase in availability of Information.

As Rodrigue, Comtois and Slack (2006, p. 87) point out electronic communication has over the years gained importance with regard to transport. This is manifested with the shift towards things like online booking of flights that started toward the end of the century and also the advertising and informational relay to the targeted user. Vast areas that remained unknown were opened up by communication and they enjoyed more transport connections as businesses and tourists covered the areas.

Development as a sector of economy

With the growth of the sector, transport has seen its influence on the economy continue to grow. This influence is not limited to it being a factor of production but also as an industry in itself employing many people and setting up many factories. Costs of transport in many households are very significant and constitute a significant percentage of the spending.

Commercializations of the transport industry lead to investments into various fields and subsequently new entrants in terms of service providers. This brought about competition resulting in more variety for the user and better delivery of the service. Advertising and the increased availability of information also helped in raising the quality offered. It led to the sprouting of large global companies like car makers and airlines.

The influence on the economy as illustrated by Rodrigue, Comtois and Slack (2006, pp. 83-88) is great to the point where based on the efficiency and availability prices of commodities can be affected. Prices of things like crude oil can also be affected by transportation demand which explains why the price was generally appreciative toward the end of the century.

Telecommunication also gained influence on the economy o the country. Online transactions were introduced and businesses could be managed from afar. The innovations in telecommunications created a lot of jobs and changed how trading was done. Commodities like software were introduced through the Internet and a whole new industry created. However, some problems arose from such innovations such as piracy and the abuse of the industry which continue to threaten the gains made.

Conclusion

The period addressed was quite significant in the revolution of the transport sector with the new technologies and improvements incorporated in the sector. While others remained almost unchanged like the water transport, some underwent something akin to a facelift in particular telecommunication. These changes brought to the fore the need to constantly restructure the services offered in order to remain relevant and competitive in the industry.

Improvements in the modes of transport enhanced efficiency by allowing for the development of a sort of seamless inter-modal usage. For travel and transportation needs the outlook on the future remains bright with the growing influence of telecommunication and continued globalization. Travel it seems will in the future be reduced to only when necessary, and thus with the expected drop in population, mobility will be achieved and movement of goods, people and access to service will be improved.

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Environmental issues also have to be addressed in making transport safer and cleaner to use. Coupled with the possibility of continued technological incorporation into cars planes and the likes, manufacturers have their work cut out in order to progress these creations with the changing times.

Individuals living in cities should also weigh up the acquisitions of items like cars as status symbols instead of looking at the value added by certain practices. In light of developing issues like terrorism that continue to rise governments should also tighten the security with regard to public transport systems and the likely impact of an attack.

References List

Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. (2000). What caused the debt to grow? Web.

Rodrigue, J. P., Comtois, C. & Slack, B. (2006). The Geography of Transport Systems. London: Routledge.

Shafto, D. (2009). Underground Railroads. Web.

Stanford Education. (2005). The Airline Industry. Web.

The National Atlas of the United States of America. (2009). Transportation of the United States. Web.

United States Department of State. (2009). The Economy in the 1980’s. Web.

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