A short History of the Changes in US Public Transportation

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 British possession.

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 colonies.

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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 country.

--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 distance.

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 use.

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.


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