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How Transportation Shaped the City Essay

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Updated: Mar 13th, 2022

How changing transportation technology has shaped the city

City transportation has undergone significant change from the age of horse-drawn carts to the automobile age. Since the twentieth century, improvements in transportation technology have greatly impacted shaping the city in numerous ways. The technological advance has led to the decline in transportation costs which have promoted the development of regional specialization, as agricultural patterns became almost correlated with the production costs differential. With the advancement of mass production, agglomeration economies in the manufacturing sector also impacted the production’s cost differential.

In the early part of the century, the geographical impact of the decline in real transportation costs was to intensify a nation or country’s manufacturing concentration to centered areas, which later developed into cities. At this point, due to this reduction, locational factors like geographically differentiated labor costs among different regions were vital to the development of interconnected transport systems which were created to cater to the demands of integrated and interdependent distanced economies. The impacts of expressway buildings on the commercial strip advancements were felt more on the suburbanization of houses and job opportunities (Newman & Kenworthy 1999)

There were large chunks of abandoned rail trackage underlying behind after the construction of railway lines. This has been a headache to city planners for many years especially in the major cities. Also, the uncertain financial condition of the deregulated airline companies has a bad correlation between quick technological advancement in transportation and the financial stability of the individual carriers.

Change in transportation technology have had a direct impact on the accessibility of cities and is one of the causal factors in the changes in land usage that occur with time. Advancements in the structure and capacity of transport networks influence the ease of movement around and within the cities. Thus improving the accessibility of the cities. An increase in accessibility is always due to an increase in the demand for convenient and reliable transport means, in terms of the real cost of transportation.

The compact, concentric form of early urban centers, with one central main of commercial activities encircled by residential houses, was a sensible city form for a pedestrian urban center. The development of the star-shaped city form with radial extensions of growth was also a rational effect of the more reliable transportation networks provided by the electric street automobile. The change in city form with time among concentric and sectoral forms is a definite indication of the essence of transportation technology in connecting new locations for development along main major routes and in the consequent filling in of the interstitial area between the routes.

The changing city structures have led to increased dependency on the mass public transportation means for city commuters, although the unanticipated rapid growth resulted in the problem of congestion, noise, and air pollution in the city areas.

Since the development of transportation advances, mobility and transportation have become an integral part of the economy, for transporting goods, labor, capital, and social agents. In the recent past, locational mobility of goods and people has greatly increased; this is a result of an increase in population and also due to technology and economic advancements that have intensified the transport society. For example, total travel within and around the United Kingdom increased more than six times between the 1970s and 2005, although United Kingdom’s population almost grew twice-fold during the period (Safdie 1997)

Many current and future transportation trends promise to change the city’s transportation system: Suburbanization of cities has led to the growing need for a nonmetropolitan public transportation system. Suburbanization has resulted in a commuter circulation structure, which is circumferential instead of urban-centered. With smaller households, the transport network continues to be multi-directional across regions. There is emerging dispersion of manufacturing and service industries, which is also reflected in the dispersion of the residential population.

The intertwining correlation among the economy, environment, and the transportation system, is emerging as a current trend. Motorized transport means and other commercial activities impact the environment through gas emissions to the environment which are detrimental to human lives. A major campaign has been staged against the transportation sector to fight the use of non-renewable resources, particularly fossil fuels, and rather the adoption of more friendly sources of fuel. This has led to the innovation of other hybrid modes of transportation that do not rely on fossil fuels, such as electric cars and trains (Taaffe, Gauthier & O’Kelly 1996).

There is increasing use of transportation information technology, which has impacted transportation’s administration, planning, and operation. Nowadays, countries and cities have adopted current technologies to enable improve the effectiveness of their transportation management, for instance, digital orthophotography, geographical information system, intelligent transportation systems, and global positioning systems. Country’s have integrated transportation databases, communication through electronic mails and file transfer, which are available online, providing a bigger information marketplace.

Safety issues are a current transportation trend. Accidents in the transportation sector are a major cause of passenger deaths and massive loss of property due to systems failure, negligence in the industry, and other causes. This has called for the intervention of policymakers and industry players to come up with ways to address safety issues affecting the transportation sector.

Cities are adopting a new trend known as the “traditional neighborhood” model, which is aimed at minimizing transportation requirements and impacting the urban forms, by incredibly easing traffic congestion. This focuses more on city planning and project development instead of transportation financing considerations.

Transportation influences on urban form

Transportation structures impact the development patterns in a region, that is, urban form. Expressways and public transit encourage decentralization trends, interns of the local balance of job opportunities, residence patterns, and concentration of commercial activities. People opt to reside and work according to the accessibility of their areas of work and availability of labor since the transportation costs of people and goods depend on the distances covered. When these costs are fixed, maybe by the location of a transshipment point, the value of the land at all locations is ascertained by the demand, and also somehow by the opportunity cost of transportation at that particular location. This explains the classical economic theory that land and residence values vary with the distance from where individuals opt to reside. In equilibrium, industries and homeowners will opt to establish according to their assessment of the market offset between transportation cost and their demand for land (Safdie 1997).

Residential suburbs come up due to the decreased transportation costs as a result of the expressway network and also due to the high per capita income in the crowded areas forcing individuals to move out to areas with no market discrimination for land and housing units. This makes many cities have a lot of regions and sub-regions, which causes the usual single-centered urban system to develop into numerous multi-nucleated forms.

There is a consistent correlation between the numerous measures of urban form, transport network characteristics, and energy consumption. Transportation land use in the cities involved public policy on the uses of land, development concentrations, parking accessibility, expressway efficiency, and the balance between the transit and roads investments. Dispersion and automobile usage trends are increased by the application of the highway service level model to influence the availability of facilities. It is evident that sound transportation structures, that is, proper land usage and market processes, impact greatly on the urban form than transportation investments (Taaffe, Gauthier & O’Kelly 1996).


In conclusion, currently, even though transportation technology greatly impacts the urban form, economic and regulatory factors impact more. Transportation technologies are cyclical while urban morphology is permanent, that is, cities have socio-physical structures that are strong and resist short-term changes. The propositions of usage of land tend to increase in an adverse sense from inefficient public financing for transportation developments. The more the improvement catalysts and the deficit in developments financed from widely varied revenue sources, the greater the significance of the influences of particular transportation factors on urban form. Also, it is evident that the cities in different stages of maturity are influenced differently by technologies and urban form is more during the early stage of maturity than in populated and developed cities (Newman & Kenworthy 1999).

Reference list

Newman, P & Kenworthy, J 1999, ‘The Problem of Automobile Dependence at the End of the Twentieth Century’, Sustainability and Cities: Overcoming Automobile Dependence, Island Press, Washington, DC, pp. 27 – 67.

Safdie, M 1997, The City After the Automobile, Harper Collins, New York.

Taaffe, EJ, Gauthier, HL & O’Kelly, ME 1996, Geography of transportation, MORTON O’KELLY, Alamance, NC.

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