200 Years of Faster Travel Times
Phil Edwards offers some perspective on how far we've come in the past 200 years—or, put another way, how far we've come on how far we can go. For instance, "[back] in the early 1800s, without easily navigable roads or railroads, even a journey from New York to Washington, DC, was a multi-day affair."
Edwards shares a series of maps from the Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States showing rates of travel at the moment of several technological and infrastructure breakthroughs, such as the construction of the National Road between 1811 and the 1830s and the Transcontinental Railroad in 1869.
One distinction to keep in mind, according to Edwards, is that the maps don't show a steady pace of progress, although change seems to have occurred quickly when looking back over the maps. "[The maps] also show how that progress advanced unevenly, in fits and starts. Railroads didn't reduce travel times right away — they still required significant infrastructure investments, ranging from laying down tracks to building tunnels. That took decades."