Powered transportation was developed less than 250 years ago, but it is hard to imagine life before ships, trains, cars and airplanes. Some major transportation milestones include:
Yet people did get around before modern transportation, albeit slower. They simply walked or rode on camels and horses. It wasn’t convenient, fast, reliable, safe or even comfortable. In most cases, you could only go 20 miles a day and carry a limited amount on your back or on the pack animal. But it was all that was available to get from one place to the next to trade goods or find food and water.
How Transportation Changed World Economies
Something amazing happened starting in the late 1700s – with the invention and adoption of modern transportation. Standards of living of people around the world radically increased because for the first time trade was easier, safer, faster, more reliable and convenient. Goods could be shipped around the world and traded for other products.
Just as ships and trains could cover long distances in days instead of the months these trips took by camel or sail, by the mid-1900s, planes could cover the same distances in just a few hours. By the 1960s, aviation was the preferred way of getting across the US and abroad to Europe. Faster and faster planes carrying more and more people – for reasonable airfares – helped us to travel, explore and invest around the globe.
With each advancement in transportation technology, the standard of living for everyone around the world has increased dramatically. Supersonic transportation will have an equally astounding impact on the world. Flight times will be reduced by 50%, bringing the world much closer together and making destinations more accessible in a shorter amount of travel time.
What it also means is that investors can visit destinations that they wouldn’t have considered otherwise. Businesses can manage global operations better, and spend more time with their customers. Vacationers can take a weekend trip around the globe and be back in time for work on Monday morning.
This is truly an exciting time in the history of transportation.
By 1920, Americans owned eight million vehicles. In 1950, that number was nearly 50 million. In 2000, there were 220 million cars on American roads, more than the number of people 18 or older. In the last 100 years, cars became safer and roads turned from dirt to asphalt or concrete.
Vessels on the ocean got bigger and goods moved faster. Engines ran on steam and coal but then switched to diesel power. Hulls were made of steel instead of wood, which led to increases in ship size. The Panama Canal, finished in 1914, cut down shipping times between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
Commercial airlines expanded rapidly in the 1960s when safety improved and jet engines became the norm. Millions of new passengers were added during this expansion of air travel. By 2000, two million people traveled by air on a daily basis in the United States. Until airplanes took over intercontinental travel in the 1950s, ocean-faring vessels dominated travel between countries.Learn more about Industrial Revolution