Transportation and the Mobility of Passengers and Freight

Transportation and the Mobility of Passengers and Freight

The mobility of passengers and freight has very different spatial dynamics. While the intensity of passenger transportation dominantly concerns short distances, freight transportation includes a wide range of ranges (geographies). The majority of the mobility of passenger movements is related to commuting, shopping, and recreation. These movements are dominantly bound by the time constraints of individuals who are unwilling to spend more than one hour per day commuting. It is only when passenger movements are less bound to time constraints, such as for business and tourism (when an individual has days instead of hours), that their geographical range can be extended. A large share of air transportation takes place at the regional level, such as within Europe and North America (flights of less than 2-3 hours dominate). Intercontinental travel only takes a small share, albeit an important one, of air transport activity. Again, this reflects the unwillingness of most people to commit large amounts of time to travel.

Unlike passengers, most cargo does not have acute time constraints, although some like perishables do. This means that the intensity of freight movements has a much more significant variety of geographical conditions. While waste disposal and local distribution (store and home deliveries) have a limited range, it is at the level of commodity and supply chains (agriculture, manufacturing) that the highest intensity is observed. The substantial amount of goods being traded at the international level, including energy and raw materials, also matters.

In a global economy, most passenger movements are still bound by a distance/time ratio, but freight movements are more a function of comparative advantages in production. While both passengers and freight movements can span the world, because of the value of time considerations, it is freight transportation that has the highest geographical range intensity.