Source: adapted from HOP Associates (2005) “Time, mobility and economic growth”.
Each transport mode and technology is linked to a set of economic opportunities, notably in terms of the available market areas, what can be transported (passengers and freight), and the provided economies of scale. All these issues are related to the commercial geography that transport systems are supporting. Before the industrial revolution, economic opportunities were limited by the low capacity to move goods over long distances, as most activities were localized in scale and scope. Economic opportunities with technologically limited and spatially bound.
The industrial revolution unleashed an array of economic opportunities, initially with the development of inland canal systems, steamship services, and then railway systems. Passenger and freight transportation expanded as well as production and consumption, while new markets and resources became available. In many instances, the development of a transportation mode is built on the opportunities developed by another, such as maritime and canal shipping. In other situations, the growth of a new mode of transportation favored the decline of others, such as the collapse of many inland canal networks in the late 19th century because of rail competition.
The development of the mass production system at the beginning of the 20th century relied on the commercial opportunities introduced by road transportation, particularly the automobile. Later in the 20th century, globalization benefited from the joint synergy of maritime shipping, roadways, railways, air, and telecommunications, all of which supporting integrated transport systems and supply chain management. Economic opportunities became global in scale and scope, particularly because of the capacity to maintain an intricate network of trade and transactions through transport systems.
More recently, new opportunities arose with the convergence of telecommunications and information technologies, supporting a higher level of management of production, consumption, distribution, and more efficient mobility of passengers. Containerization also became an emerging paradigm supporting complex supply chains involving a multitude of locations. Building upon the advantages conferred by other transportation modes, this process will account for a significant share of economic opportunities of the first half of the 21st century.