A short History of
the Changes in US Public Transportation
has undergone many changes in the US since colonial days. These
changes reflect our nation's changes as a society. They also reflect
how much the US has advanced technologically since its days as a
Let's examine how public transportation has changed in the US since
the 17tth century to understand why this is the case.
--The first significant changes occurred in the middle of the 17th
century when Boston established the first major travel routes in the
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These travel routes
included the Boston Post Road that extended from Massachusetts to
New York. These routes were originally established to create mail
routes for the colonies. However, colonists eventually improved the
roads so that the first stagecoach routes could be established.
--These stagecoach routes gradually improved in the 18th and 19th
centuries after the American Revolution.
Stagecoach travel gradually improved in the US in the 18th and 19th
centuries to the point where daily and weekly service was available
in most states and territories. This improvement can be attributed
to the growing demand for stagecoach service by a growing population
who wanted public transportation to travel to other places in the
--In addition, the steamboat was also an important mode of public
transportation in the US in the first half of the 20th century.
Steamboat travel developed into an important mode of transportation
for people once Robert Fulton made steamboat travel commercially
viable in the US in the early 1800s. Several steamboat routes were
constructed on the Mississippi River, Lake Erie, the Missouri River,
and the Colombia River and on other main US waterways. These routes
were gradually developed to provide daily and weekly service to
people who wanted to travel across the country.
Furthermore, improvements in the steamboat's engine helped to
improve on-time performance for steamboats. These improvements made
the steamboat an effective form of public transportation for many
people living in the Great Lakes and Mississippi River regions.
Steamboat travel began to decline as a major form of public
transportation just before the Civil War when the railroad became a
more popular way to travel in the US.
--The railroad developed into a major form of public transportation
across the US in the middle of the 19th century.
This happened after several regional railroads in the Northeast such
as the B & O Railroad demonstrated how railroad companies could make
money by providing public transportation to people who wanted to
travel to America's larger cities.
Railroad travel's popularity boomed after the Civil War once the
first Transcontinental Railroad line was connected in 1869 in Utah.
This was especially true after several railroad lines developed
direct service from coast to coast.
This gradually reduced the need for stagecoach and steamboat travel
because it reduced the amount of time people needed to travel a long
Railroad travel is still a popular form of commuter transportation
in America's larger cities. However, people reduced their dependency
on railroad travel thanks to the invention of the jet plane.
---Airplane travel has become a popular form of public
transportation since the end of World War II.
The US's dependency on railroad travel lessened during the first
half of the 20th century after the Wright brothers invented the
airplane. However, airplane travel did not become as popular until
after World War II when the jet engine was modified for commercial
Several commercial airlines used jet planes such as the Concorde and
the Comet to a few nonstop flights to many destinations around the
world during the 1950s. Today, jet engines are so powerful that
people can now travel anywhere around the world in half the time
they needed 50 years ago.
As a result, studying today's jet engines is a terrific way to
remember how far along we've come along as a society and where we
can still go in the future.