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Wheeler - Societal and Policy Perspectives in Transportation Geograph

Wheeler - Societal and Policy Perspectives in Transportation Geograph

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Clark University
Societal and Policy Perspectives in Transportation GeographyAuthor(s): James O. WheelerSource:
Economic Geography,
Vol. 49, No. 2, Transportation Geography: Societal and PolicyPerspectives (Apr., 1973), pp. ii-184Published by: Clark UniversityStable URL:
Accessed: 09/03/2010 19:53
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 Economic Geography.
JAMES 0. WHEELER University of Georgia The methodological and philosophical foundations of modern transportation geog- raphy have been largely established by a growing body of substantive literature, and only a handful of methodological and review statements have appeared over the past twenty years. Ullman and Mayer [15] pro- vided a comprehensive review of the field in 1954, and Ullman [14] articulated the methodological and philosophical basis of geographic studies of transportation by em- phasizing the integrative role and the sig- nificance of interaction among places on the earth. Although the field may be viewed in Hartshornian [7] terms as the areal variation in transportation phenomena, the more common modern viewpoint holds that analysis and understanding of the linkages among places is as important as the study of the characteristics of those places. In fact, characteristics of places are closely related to their past and present linkages. As Taaffe remarked, In American geog- raphy, . . . spatial interaction . . . has be- come just as great a subject of geographic interest since World War II as have the characteristics of the areas themselves [12, p. 15]. Strong bibliographic supports affirm Taaffe's statement [1, 5, 8, 19, 11, 19]. Since 1954 only a few reviews of the field have appeared. Vasilevskiy [16], a Soviet geographer, divided transportation geog- raphy into three components: general or theoretical geography (comprising the geography of traffic and transportation routes), the geography of individual forms of transport, and regional transport geog- raphy. His theoretical division particularly emphasized relationships between transpor- tation and the economy. Following from Vasilevskiy and based on a survey of re- search in American transportation geog- raphy, I offered a threefold research break- down, identified as studies of networks (location, structure, and evolution), flows on networks, and the significance and im- pact of networks and flows on the economic and social system [18]. This organization offered generality and widespread applic- ability, interrelationships among the three divisions (providing cohesion to the field), and close ties of these elements with the location theory cluster of contemporary hu- man geography. Muller [9] provided a succinct and up-to-date bibliographic essay tying spatial research in transportation with modem human geography. Finally, a re- cent paper by White [20] surveyed re- search developments in six areas of trans- portation geography (historical, physical, economic, social, political, and techno- logical). Most of the review statements in transportation geography have basically attempted to synthesize developments in the field, rather than call for new directions. There are, however, some exceptions. In 1953 Thomas [13] viewed transportation geography as studying the means of trans- portation, the nature of the goods carried, and the routes followed by the various types of transportation. The latter, Thomas felt, received too much emphasis in American geography and led to a focus on economic rather than cultural phenomena. Appleton [2] in 1965 decried the neglect of a mor- phological approach in transport geography to balance the preoccupation of researchers with functional studies. Neither the state- ment by Thomas nor Appleton's, however, (continued on page 181)
(continued from page ii) brought about the desired redirection of the field. The essay by Hurst, contained in this volume, calls for a new reassessment, which should generate considerable debate. It is the purpose of this introductory note to make a brief methodological comment upon the nature of transportation eography and to point up related societal and policy implications. An overview of the papers in this volume provides a useful perspective for integrating the spatial study of trans- portation with societal inputs and impacts. Therefore, the thrust of this issue is a con- tinuation of the effort begun at a special session devoted to Social Perspectives in Transportation Geography, held at the Kansas City meeting of the Association of American Geographers, April, 1972. Five of the papers in this volume grew out of that special session; three were solicited for this issue.
The present discussion of transportation geography is an articulation and extension of my earlier framework. t leads directly to the role of societal and policy perspectives which the papers in this issue address. Berry, through use of a geographic ma- trix, demonstrated conceptual approaches to spatial analysis. He began by identifying disciplines, not so much by the phenomena they study, as by the integrating concepts and processes that they stress [4, p. 2]. Thus, disciplines focus upon particular sys- tems and their sets of interdependent propo- sitions. As a discipline takes form, recogni- tion of a system may emerge slowly, as am- biguous concepts are sharpened and related to better understood concepts and princi- ples, as theories are developed and tested, and as paradigms are put forth to explore new perspectives. The integrating concepts and processes of a system of knowledge aid the understanding of aspects of man's ex-
The argument Berry followed to define and synthesize the discipline of geography may logically be used with any subdisci- pline within the field. Likewise, his matrix may be viewed entirely within the context of one subdiscipline, transportation geog- raphy. Variables measuring characteristics of transportation and movement are identi- fied by points or areas for a given time di- mension. Each of the ten approaches to regional analysis outlined by Berry also ap- plies to transportation geography. For example, if we let the rows in the matrix represent places (or observations) and the columns transportation ariables, an analysis of a column or columns leads to studies of spatial distributions and associations in transportation. Examination of a row or rows results, respectively, in the association of transportation ariables at one place and in areal differentiation. Historical spatial studies of transportation variables are pos- sible by analysis of a series of matrices each representing past time slices, with possible emphasis on either rows or columns. Essentially, however, Berry's geographic matrix views the spatial features of the transportation system only at the level of static structure. It says nothing at all about the second level of interconnections across areas, connectivity of places, flows and in- teractions [4, p. 10]. This second level requires a modification of the original ma- trix, in which places appear both as rows and columns. We have then the familiar origin-destination matrix, also called the in- teraction or flow matrix. The cells of the matrix may reveal connections or lack of connections between places (connectivity or adjacency matrix) or may contain data regarding the magnitude of interaction be- tween origins and destinations. Obviously, the time dimension may be included, by considering additional matrices for other time slices. Just as the geographic matrix contains mappable data, so too does the interaction matrix. To more explicitly relate Berry's matrix to the subdiscipline of transportation geog- raphy, one may basically regard it as a view of the spatial structure of transportation. The interaction matrix, on the other hand, relates more clearly to spatial interaction analysis. Studies combining the concept of spatial structure with interaction ead to an understanding of spatial organization, or the explanation of the interdependence be- tween the structure of space and the inter- actions across space. Central place theory, for example, has provided one view of the spatial organization of the economy by re- lating the spatial structure of central places to the spatial interactions of consumers. The two basic components in spatial in- teraction may be conceptualized as the 181

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