Between 1900 and 2000, the length of paved roads in the United States increased from 240 km to 6,400,000 km (Peat 2002, BTS 2002) with virtually 100% of the U.S. population having almost immediate access to paved roadways. Similarly, in 1830 there were 37 km of railroad in the United States, but by 1920 total track mileage had increased more than ten-thousand times to 416,000 km miles, however since then, rail track mileage has shrunk to about 272,000 km (Garrison 1996, BTS 2002). The growth (and decline) of transport networks obviously affects the social and economic activities that a region can support; yet the dynamics of how such growth occurs is one of the least understood areas in transport, geography, and regional science. This is revealed time and again in the long-range planning efforts of metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), where transport network changes are treated exclusively as the result of top-down decision-making. Changes to the transport network are rather the result of numerous small decisions (and some large ones) by property owners, firms, developers, towns, cities, counties, state department of transport districts, MPOs, and states in response to market conditions and policy initiatives. Understanding how markets and policies translate into facilities on the ground is essential for scientific understanding and improving forecasting, planning, policy-making, and evaluation.
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