The Geography of Transport Systems
The Geography of Transport
Mobility is fundamental to economic and social activities, including commuting,
manufacturing or supplying energy. Transport systems composed of infrastructures,
modes and terminals are so embedded in the socio-economic life of individuals,
institutions and corporations that they are often invisible to the consumer. Understanding
how mobility is linked with geography is the main purpose of this valuable and accessible
The Geography of Transport Systems, concerned with movements of freight, people
and information, tries to link spatial constraints and attributes with the origin, the
destination, the extent, the nature and the purpose of movements. It is divided into nine
chapters, each covering a speciﬁ c conceptual dimension, including:
Modes and terminals
Each chapter also covers methodologies linked with transport geography such as
accessibility, spatial interactions, graph theory and geographic information systems for
This student-friendly book provides a comprehensive introduction to the ﬁ eld, with a
broad overview of its concepts, methods and areas of application. It is highly illustrated
with over 100 ﬁ gures and tables and includes an extensive glossary.
Jean-Paul Rodrigue is an Associate Professor of Geography in the Department of
Economics and Geography at Hofstra University, USA.
Claude Comtois is Professor of Geography at the University of Montreal, Canada.
Brian Slack is Professor of Geography at Concordia University, Canada. The Geography of Transport
Jean-Paul Rodrigue, Claude Comtois
and Brian Slack First published 2006
2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN
Simultaneously published in the USA and Canada
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This edition published in the Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2006.
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© 2006 Jean-Paul Rodrigue, Claude Comtois and Brian Slack
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any
form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented,
including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system,
without permission in writing from the publishers.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Rodrigue, Jean-Paul, 1967–
The geography of transport systems / Jean-Paul Rodrigue, Claude Comtois, and
Includes bibliographical references and index.
1. Transportation geography. I. Comtois, Claude, 1954– II. Slack, Brian, 1939–
ISBN10: 0–415–35440–4 (hbk)
ISBN10: 0–415–35441–2 (pbk)
ISBN10: 0–203–00111–7 (ebk)
ISBN13: 978–0–415–35440–0 (hbk)
ISBN13: 978–0–415–35441–7 (pbk)
ISBN13: 978–0–203–00111–0 (ebk) To Gordana, Mabel and Suzanne Contents
Chapter 1 Transportation and geography 1
Chapter2 Transportation systems and networks 38
Chapter3 Economic and spatial structure of transport systems 74
Chapter4 Transportation modes 101
Chapter5 Transport terminals 126
Chapter6 International and regional transportation 144
Chapter7 Urban transportation 171
Chapter8 Transport and environment 204
Chapter9 Transport planning and policy 227
Chapter10 Conclusion: Issues and challenges in transport geography 246
Index 276 Preface
Transportation is concerned with mobility, particularly how this mobility is taking place
in the context of a wide variety of conditions. Mobility is a geographical endeavor since
it trades space for a cost. Technological and economic forces have changed this balance
many times in the past, but in recent decades a growing amount of space has been made
accessible at a similar cost. It is thus not surprising to realize that at the same time
that technology permitted improvements in transport speed, capacity and efﬁ ciency,
individuals and corporations have been able to take advantage of this improved mobility.
A driving force of the global economy resides in the capacity of transport systems to
ship large quantities of freight and to accommodate vast numbers of passengers. The
world has become interconnected at several scales. This new geographical dimension
transcends a more traditional perspective of transportation mainly focused on the city or
the nation. At the beginning of the twenty-ﬁ rst century, the geography of transportation
is thus fundamentally being redeﬁ ned by global, regional and local issues.
Presenting these issues to students or the public remains a challenging task. This book
has speciﬁ cally been designed with this in mind. Its origins are rather unusual since it
began in 1997 as an online initiative to provide material about transport geography and
was simply titled ‘Transport Geography on the Web’. The material was considerably
revised and expanded over the years, often thanks to comments and queries we received,
as the site gained a wider audience. It has already endured the test of being exposed to
the scrutiny of a global audience including practitioners, policy makers, educators and,
most importantly, students. For many years and as these words were written, the site
ranked ﬁ rst in Google under the topic of transport geography, implying its popularity
as a trusted source of information. Its contents are appearing in a growing number of
transport-related curriculums underlining the relevance of the material covered and that
a demand was being fulﬁ lled. The step of moving to a textbook was a natural one,
especially after receiving many requests in this direction.
The textbook is articulated along two core approaches to transport geography, one
conceptual and the other methodological. The conceptual parts present what we think
are some of the most relevant issues explaining contemporary transport geography. In
addition to the more conventional topics related to transport modes, terminals, as well
as urban transportation, the book also substantially focuses on emerging issues such as
globalization, logistics and the environment. Many, if not all, of these issues have been
superﬁ cially covered in the past, but their importance cannot be underestimated in a
transport geography that involves an increasingly integrated world.
The methodological parts address how transportation information is used to assist
transport operators allocate their resources (investments, vehicles) or to inﬂ uence public
policy. This includes a wide array of methods ranging from qualitative to quantitative.
Since transport is a ﬁ eld of application, the use of methodologies is particularly relevant
as they relate to real world issues. The merging between methodologies and information
technologies has led to many new opportunities, notably with the emergence of Preface • ix
transportation geographic information systems (GIS-T). It has become a very active
ﬁ eld of investigation and application.
It is our hope that the reader will have a better understanding of the nature, function
and challenges of contemporary transportation systems. The online companion site will
ensure that this book will not be a static endeavor and will be revised and updated as
changes take place in this fascinating ﬁ eld which is transport geography.
New York, January 2006
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