OECD/ITF Joint Transport Research Centre Discussion Paper No. 2009-14
The great difference between our journeys and activity schedules and those of our forebears lies in the much longer distances we travel. By road, and even more so by rail and air, nowadays we can cover hundreds or even thousands of miles in a few hours. Inter-urban mobility is directly affected by these developments. Where international travel by coach and sailing ship used to take weeks, and intercontinental journeys sometimes even longer, we now count the time in hours. The transport revolution has played a major part in the economic history of the last two centuries (Niveau and Crozet, 2000), but it must be emphasized that the change has been gradual. Over two hundred years have passed between the stage-coach and the high-speed train, the clipper and the jet, during which technological progress and the higher speeds it enables have spread relatively slowly. Even with key technological revolutions like the railways, the automobile and the aeroplane, it took several decades for them to become available to the population at large. From this slow percolation of technological progress into the way we live has arisen the idea that steadily increasing mobility is a structural given of modern society. Further, faster seems to have become the general rule, to such an extent that even space travel, so we are told, will become more widely available in the relatively near future. A few very wealthy people have already become the world's first space tourists. It is the self-evident nature of this long-term trend towards increased mobility that we wish to examine in this report, since a number of factors could well undermine the relatively classic assumption that past trends will continue into the future.