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Role of Each Mode of Transport Essay

According to Anderson (1999), transport is the movement of people, goods, and services from one location to another. Effective transport systems play a critical role in achieving the economic and social needs of a given society. Air, land, and water are the most common modes of transportation in the United States of America and many other nations in the world. Air transport is usually facilitated by aircrafts. Land transport on the other hand is facilitated by rail and road.

Water transport occurs on seas, lakes, rivers/canals and so on. Transport in general plays a significant role in developing and sustaining economic, demographic, and political factors of a given community and the world at large (Frankel, 2011). Effective modes of transport facilitate the expansion of town and cities by enhancing the movement of people as well as goods and services. Transport mechanisms also assist in the spread of individuals resulting in growth and development.

In the United States of America, roads are the most common modes of transportation accounting for approximately 68% of the national demographics (Frankel, 2011). Interstate highway systems have been built to facilitate the movement of people within a given locality or from one state to another.

In most parts of the country, people own personal vehicles. However, in urban centers where there is massive traffic congestion, transport is facilitated by mass transit and railways transport. Unlike in the 1940s, railway transport system in the USA mainly consists of freight train shipment (Frankel, 2011).

The use of passage trains has greatly reduced as a result of changes in economic needs as well as the introduction o faster and more reliable transportation systems such as bus shuttles, personal vehicles and airplanes. However, railway transport in USA accounts for 32% of the national demographics (Frankel, 2011).

As of 2004, the USA has been ranked 17th in the world as the nation with the busiest airports. Over the years, there has been a significant increase in air transport in USA especially between states. Water transport in the United States is regarded as the cheapest mode of transport. However, due to lack of efficient water ways, it is the least common mode of transport.

Development of Transport Modes

In the USA, rail transport developed as a result of the presence of a wide spread railroad network that covered most parts of the USA. Transforming from early passenger cars that were common during the 19th century to high speed commuter trains, the efficiency of rail transport highly increased due to technological advancements (Garrison & Levinson, 2006). However, since the 1940s, this trend was interrupted with the introduction of more efficient modes of transports such as roads and air.

Companies such as General Motors increased their outputs rates producing more cars that were faster, safer, and more comfortable. Consequently, the completion of the in 1950 greatly improved road transport in USA. This system sustains both local and long distance. Covering over 47,000 miles, this system is regarded as the largest and most efficient road system in the world.

Air travel also experienced significant changes from the simple planes that were built prior to the Second World War to bigger, faster, and more efficient planes whose production commenced during the second half of the 20th century. Companies such as Boeing came up with new models of aircrafts that could carry more passengers and travel longer distances improving air travel. However, the use of water transport has greatly decreased due to its in efficiencies over the years.

History of Transportation Systems

Between 1820 and 1850, USA watched closely the success of railways transport in England. To develop such an infrastructure, several states granted charters to railway building companies, most of which Army Corps Engineers to design their routes and systems. The Baltimore Ohio railroad was among the railroads that were completed during this time. The second half of the 19th century saw massive advancements and improvements in the railways sector.

The transcontinental railroad that linked eastern USA with California was completed during this time enhancing trade and the movement of people (Baker & Gerhold, 1993). On the other hand, the construction of modern roads commenced during the Renaissance Period (Baker & Gerhold, 1993).

After the success of the Wright brothers in 1903 to successfully fly a device that is heavier than air, the use of aircrafts became common especially during the first and Second World War (Jones, 2011). Consequently, aircrafts started to transport cargo as well as passengers to different parts of the world.

Water transport was the most common mode of long distance travel during before the introduction of air travel. Despite the setbacks that it has been experiencing, a lot of cargo is still transported in ships all around the world. Consequently, technological advancement such as the radar system has increased the efficiency and reliability of water transports. However, like rail transport, the number of passengers using water transport in the USA and many parts of the world has declined.

The Role of the Government, Politics and the Economy in the Development of Transport

In the USA, it is the role of State governments to maintain all highways within their jurisdictions. However, the federal government plays a critical role in building and maintaining freeways.

In the States that are located in the East Coast and the Midwest, all highways are under the management of the government or private corporations (Garrison & Levinson, 2006). Therefore, users are expected to pay toll tax while using these roads. However, the situation is quite different in the States that are located in the West Coast as the roads are free to be used by any individual (freeways).

In the USA, all roads have been constructed to enhance the nation’s economic development. Therefore, regions that have a high population density coupled with high levels of economic activities usually have better and more complex roads as compared to regions that are sparsely populated with low levels of economic activities (Garrison & Levinson, 2006). It is as a result of this fact that states such as New York, California, and Texas have complex road networks.

On the other hand, the running and management of railways systems and water ferries might be under public or private corporations. However, their development highly relies on their effectiveness and efficiency as well as the economic impacts that they have. Consequently, airlines are owned by civilians or by public corporations. However, most airports are owned and managed by local authorities with the exception of privately owned airports.

A lot of legislations have been passed to ensure that transportation in the United States is safe and well maintained. To achieve this, the Congress established the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) in 1966 (DOT, 2012). With the help of agencies such as Federal Aviation Administration, Federal Highway Administration, Federal Railway Administration and Maritime Administration, the DOT passes legislations, manages, and monitors all modes of transportation within the United States of America to ensure that the social, political, and economic needs of the nation are met.

The Impacts of Technology on Transport

Technology has played an essential role in increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of transportation systems in the world. The wheel is perhaps the most significant innovation in road transport. At the same time, the development of the sail played a critical role in enhancing naval transportation systems. However, at the present moment, technology affects transportation in a variety of facets.

In the modern age, innovation comes from a variety of technologies to achieve a specific goal or a given set of goals. Therefore as Uyterlinde (n.d.) asserts, it is difficult to directly point out the impacts that a given form of technology has on the transport industry.

During the early days, the main setback that was experienced in the transport sector was efficiency. Transportation was slow, uncomfortable, and required a lot of energy consumption hence making it to be expensive.

During the 1940s and 1950s for instance, air travel was not popular since aircrafts could not travel fast and for long, flights were uncomfortable since the cabins were unpressurised and they aircrafts were powered by propellers making the ride noisy (Uyterlinde, n.d.). However, modern and more powerful aircraft were introduced by Boeing. In 1959, Boeing 707 was released. This plane was jet-powered, much faster, more comfortable and could carry more passengers. This innovation enhanced international air travel.

With increased speeds, safety is another challenge that the transport industry has been facing. Every year, hundreds of thousands of accidents on the road, air, and at sea are reported. In the process, many people lose their lives and many more are injured. To tackle this issue, car manufacturing companies have come up with innovations that improve the safety of passengers by having reliable braking systems, safety belts, and strong chassis that protect an individual in case of an accident (Smith, 2005).

With the help of radar technology, safety in aircrafts and sea vessels has been enhanced as well. Radar technology enables one to determine the exact location of an aircraft or a vessel and whether it is on course. Radio technology has also enhanced communication between radio stations and vessels. This technology is critical especially during emergencies.

However, with the modern technology, speed, safety, comfort, and technology have been catered for effectively. Through the research and development (R&D), car, plane, and ship manufacturing companies have been able to meet the needs of their target market as well as the needs of the society at large by coming up with creative and innovative designs that provide their users with comfort, speed, and reliability.

For instance, manufactures have come up with engine designs that not only reduce fuel consumption but increase the overall power output. At the same time, most designs of motor vehicles, planes, boats, and ships are environment friendly. Therefore, the R&D teams take into consideration the needs and trends of the public and come with designs that are effective, efficient and sustainable (Jones, 2011).

Development of National and International Rules and Regulations

In the United States of America, the United States Department of Transport (DOT) is the body that has the mandate to make rules and regulations that regulate transportation within the nation (DOT, 2012). Before the DOT makes any regulations, rules, or procedures that govern transportation in the United States, several considerations are put in place.

First, the proposed or amended legislation needs to be consistent with the status and executive orders that give the DOT the power to make and amend transportation rules. Other factors that need to be considered include presidential directives and other related orders (DOT, 2012). Once these standards have been met, the body can commence the process of rule making. According to the DOT, rule making can result in the introduction of new rules and regulations, amendment of existing ones, or the re-introduction of old rules (DOT, 2012).

The DOT can introduce rules and regulations from directives of a statute. Consequently, when the DOT or other bodies operating under its umbrella identify a problem, then it is the duty of the organization to come up with effective rules and regulations that would prevent its further occurrence. Ultimately, the public can file a petition to the DOT to develop laws and regulations that will meet their collective needs and demands.

With the presence of these requirements and standards, the policies, rules and regulations that are developed by the DOT are therefore sustainable, effective and efficient since they are consistent with the constitution of the United States, the mandate of the organization as well as the transportation needs of the people of the United States.

To a larger extent, the DOT in conjunction with transport agencies of other nations come together to make universal laws to govern international transportation. According to UNCTD (2001), this is an essential move as it guarantees consistencies in transportation across borders.

This rule ensures that individuals and corporations in the transport industry enjoy their privileges and respect the law whether they are in the United States or outside its borders. Other than guaranteeing consistency in law, the policies, rules, and regulations that govern the transport sector ensure that safety is maintained, the rights of every party within the transport industry are respected, and people adhere to the rules and regulations that have been set by the law.

Transportation Organizations

The United States Department of Transport plays a critical role in developing policies, rules, and guidelines that govern transportation within the United States. However, for these laws to be implemented effectively and efficiently, organizations within the transport industry need to operate as a system with clearly defined rules and boundaries. This will ensure that the process of moving people and goods from one location to another is efficient (Garrison & Levinson, 2006).

In the United States, there are various transport organizations. Therefore, with the presence of organizations, the process of developing, implanting and monitoring transportation rules and regulations is hierarchical. After following the required rules and procedures, the DOT comes up with rules and regulations that will govern the transport industry.

The application of these rules and regulations falls under the jurisdiction of respective bodies such as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Federal Highway Administration (FHA), Federal Railway Administration (FRA) and Maritime Administration (MARAD). These bodies ensure that the rules and regulations that have been passed by the DOT are followed by organizations that offer transportation services under their jurisdiction.

Therefore, these bodies team up with individuals and corporations that own and control transport services such as airlines, taxi companies, ferrying companies and so on to ensure that they are aware and follow the rules from the DOT. At the same time, these bodies get feedback from these organizations and individuals as well as their views, attitudes, and perceptions of various factors that affect transportation within the United States.

With this information, The DOT will analyze its performance and determine whether to come up with new rules, amend existing ones or re-introduce old rules. Thus, the presence of organizations and systems ensure that the transport industry operates in a consistent, effective and efficient manner hence enabling it to achieve its social and economic goals.

Political, Legal, and Policy Issues that affect Transport Legislation

As it has been stated severally in this paper, the DOT has been given the mandate to come up with regulations, rules and policies that govern transportation within the United States of America. Consequently, the Science, Commerce, and Transportation committee as well as the Environment and Public Works committee are the main committees within the congress that are involved with regulating and monitoring transport activities within the USA (Garrison & Levinson, 2006).

Therefore, before the DOT or any other agency within or outside the government comes up with a directive, rule or regulation that should be implemented, all the involved bodies and agencies need to be involved in the entire process. Most importantly, for the proposed laws and policies to be applicable within the United States, they need to conform to the requirements of the constitution. Within the United States, any law that contradicts with the constitution is regarded as null and void.

With these systems in place, it is the duty of the DOT to ensure that the proposed policies, rules, and regulations work to enhance the transportation system of the United States. Therefore, these policies need to consider the views of the people whom they are to govern.

These rules also need to be practical, reasonable, and sustainable. Most importantly, the rules and regulations that govern the transport industry need to be consistent with the local, state, as well as international, rules and regulations since all modes of transport pass through different jurisdictions.

Intermodal Transportation

Intermodal transportation involves the use of more than one mode of transport to reach a given destination (UNCTD, 2001). This practice has been common within the society. For instance, before taking a flight, it is common for many individuals to use an alternative means of transport to come to the airport and also to leave the airport. The main aim of transport systems is to increase the ease and efficiency of moving.

With this in mind, the USA came up with the Intermodal Surface Transport Act that was enacted in 1991 to ensure that individuals enjoy the benefits of a given mode of transport at the expense of the other (Garrison & Levinson, 2006). For instance, it is advisable to use rail transport in huge cities within the United States since it is faster, it can accommodate a lot of people and it eases traffic congestion.

From the rail stations, people can walk, drive or take a taxi to their destinations. Therefore, given the strengths and weaknesses of different modes of transport, the intermodal transportation concepts ensures that given specific circumstances the advantages of a given mode of transport are utilized to overcome the weaknesses of another. In the process, a self-sustaining concept of transport that is effective and efficient is realized.


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Frankel, J. (2011). Assessing Euro Zone Transport Systems. Economic Policy, Vol. 4 No. 15, pp. 576-627.

Garrison, W. L. & Levinson, D. M. (2006). The transportation experience: Policy, planning, and deployment. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

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