Transportation: A Geographical Analysis

Article excerpt

Transportation: A Geographical Analysis by William R. Black, The Guilford Press, New York, 2003, vii + 375 pp., cloth US$65 (ISBN 1-57230-848-6)

Black's Transportation: A Geographical Analysis has much to commend it. It has breadth, is well referenced and is readable notwithstanding its coverage of numerous analytical techniques. At the same time, however, I am not sure where to put it on my bookshelf--with other textbooks, with books on the development of geography as a discipline, with factual resource books or with primers on analytical methods--as this latest monograph on transportation geography has elements of all four.

The book is divided into seven parts, which together comprise twenty-one chapters. The first part, entitled, 'Foundations', contains three chapters that provide, in turn, an introduction to the sub-discipline of geography, a historical overview of the development of transportation systems and a description of transportation today. This section provides context for the remainder of the book and also foreshadows the blend of theoretical and applied coverage that characterises the book. This section is also similar to how a professor might teach the first few classes of an undergraduate course on transportation geography.

The second part of the book deals with 'Network Analysis', which was central to the quantitative revolution that redefined geography several decades ago. The first two chapters provide an introduction to basic concepts and indices and are similar in content to other transportation geography textbooks (Taaffe et al. 1996), with a rather lengthy inventory of accessibility measures used to describe changing network structure. The third and final chapter in this section deals with the location of routes, which is novel, but is not an easy fit with the first two chapters because of differences in both the nature of questions and methods.

'Flow Analysis' is the theme of the third part, and here Black discusses both freight and passenger movements. The initial chapter focuses on the bases for interaction and the role of transport costs in trade and commodity flows. This is followed by a chapter entitled, 'Methods of Flow Analysis', which is considerably more specific in its focus and presents a curious mix of techniques (e.g., random flow model, transaction flow analysis and dyadic factor analysis). The remaining three chapters deal with the four-stage urban transportation planning process--trip generation, trip distribution and modal and route choice. Black's coverage of these topics is somewhat different than the excellent treatment in Hanson (1995) in that Black ignores category analysis as a technique for trip generation and provides a more limited discussion of how the various techniques are used by planning agencies in formulating trip predictions. However, Black's treatment has the advantage of including thoughtful descriptions of how models are fitted, as well as some of the limitations of these models.

Part IV has five chapters dealing with different aspects of 'Policy, Plans, and Impacts'. Chapters 12 and 13, which deal with national transport policy and urban transportation planning, respectively, are similar in that they first introduce the geographical significance/dimension of transport policy and then present thoughtful comparisons of policy in the United States and selected parts of Europe. Chapters 14 and 16 also have commonalities in their coverage of transport impact analysis--providing both examples as well as a discussion of how such analyses are done. Chapter 15, however, is quite different in that it is an inventory of impacts of different types (e.g., urban air quality, acid rain and climate change), with little detail on any of them, and virtually no insight into the methods or theory that inform our understanding of them. Also of curiosity is Black's decision to begin the chapter with several pages on road safety trends, despite the fact that the chapter is entitled, 'Transportation's Impact on the Environment'. …