The answer to the question “how has transportation affected globalization?” is simple: it’s a key factor in economic development and in the ability of a society to expand its economic and trade opportunities. Without reliable transportation, international trade and cultural exchange would be severely limited. Transportation is also a crucial tool in the development of a nation, improving its quality of life and increasing the possibility for a more stable economy.
Transportation is a spatial activity, operating at a range of scales from local road and rail transport flows to complex air and maritime transport networks. This globalization of transport has brought unique opportunities to develop transport geography as a discipline.
For example, air freight is a common mode of transport for products that have high value and low weight to volume ratios such as electronics and fashion clothing, requiring quick delivery. This has resulted in a high willingness to pay for fast shipping and an important role for air transport hubs in cities. The same principle applies to sea shipping, a major feature of global supply chains. Ports and shipyards are often located close to manufacturing and industrial centers.
In addition to its globalization impact, transportation also influences the structure of the economy by facilitating the movement of goods and people and shaping the location of economic activities. This interdependency between transportation and economic development is best exemplified by the ancient Silk Road. While assessments of short-term effects from improvements in transportation tend to focus on benefits and adjustments to the transport-providing firms, longer-term changes in production, institutional, and communication structures generate larger developmental payoffs that span industries and regions.