Transport System: Elements, Characteristics, Types, Modes

  • Post last modified:3 November 2021
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What is Transport System?

A transportation system is a way of moving people or products from place to place. Transportation systems have inputs, processes, outputs, and feedback. For example, inputs to a city bus system include bus drivers and fuel. Processes include driving the bus and loading passengers. The output is arrival at scheduled stops. Feedback includes comments from satisfied customers.

Transportation systems are interrelated. Each system depends on the other systems. Buses and cars, for example, take passengers to airports and ship docks. Transportation systems are part of the larger technological, social, and environmental systems in our world.

Elements of Transportation

The elements of transportation vary for each transportation mode and vehicle, but generally, there are four basic elements in any transportation system. These are:

  1. Way
  2. Terminal
  3. Carrying Unit
  4. Motive Power


The way is the medium of travel used by a transport mode. It may be purely artificial, such as roads and railways; or natural, such as air or water. Roads, railways and inland waterways restrict vehicles movement to a specific pattern, while air and sea allow flexibility.

However, international regulations delineate both sea and air corridors and routes. Standard operating procedures are applied worldwide to limit the freedom of these ways.

In considering transport modes, the availability of the way is very important in the case of roads, railways and inland waterways, where substantial investment would be needed to provide them. In the case of water and air, this is not an issue except for air traffic control procedures.


The terminal represents the second important element of a transport mode giving access to the way for the users or acting as an interchange between different types of ways. It is the farthest point to which the transport system extends–literally the end of the line. Probably the simplest terminal is parking for a private car, while the most complex one is an airport.

In fact, most terminals are becoming integrated transportation points as they can act as interchanges where travellers can transfer between vehicles to modes. Airports, for example, can be used as transfer points between two aircraft, or between other modes of travel, such as the car or train.

The design of terminals and the amenities they offer depend heavily upon the type of journey and transportation involved. Although we can observe a general trend towards the development of integrated terminals that cater for all the potential needs of the traveller, to cope up with dynamic changes and transformations in the transport sector, we need to have sophisticated points as terminals, coaches that can operate from roadside locations.

Carrying Unit

The carrying unit is the actual transportation media- the vehicle which facilitates the movement. Each ‘way’ demands a distinctive form of carrying unit- aircraft for the sky, ships for the sea, motor vehicles for roads and train or tram for railways.

The nature of carrying units is influenced by numerous factors which include travel demand and the technology available, as well as other elements of the mode, e.g.motive power. In the last few decades, developments have occurred in the carrying units which are designed towards greater efficiency and consumer satisfaction.

Flexibility is equally important– vehicles increasingly need to be altered easily and quickly in order to accommodate changing tourism demands. Executive style coaches with onboard services are an example of such transformation.

Motive Power

Motive power is perhaps the key element in transportation development. The natural power of horse-drawn carriages and sailing vessels provided the initial energy for transportation. The exploration of steam power provided the opportunity for the introduction of steamships and railways, while the internal combustion engine stimulated the development of road and air transportation.

Finally, jet propulsion enabled air transportation to be competitively priced and gave aircraft both speed and range. However, even today, a number of activity holidays, such as cycling, pony trekking and sailing involve human-generated motive power as part of the recreational activity.

Motive power is closely related to a number of issues, such as the capacity, type of the carrying unit, demand, desired speed and range of the vehicle, etc. As costs of operation have been modified, the engine has had to become more fuel-efficient and more reliable in ensuring safety.

Characteristics of Transportation Services

Transportation is necessary for more people from one place to another. In doing so, however, transportation provides a service, which has some unique characteristics. The principal characteristics of service may be summarized as intangibility, inseparability and perishability variability:

  1.  Intangibility
  2. Inseparability
  3. Perishability
  4. Variability
  5. Seasonality and Demand Fluctuations
  6. Interdependence of Tourism Products
  7. Dominance of External Environment
  8. Highly Capital Intensive and Economies of Scale
  9. Impact of National and International Regulations


Unlike physical products, services cannot be seen, tasted, felt, heard or smelled before they are purchased. Prior to boarding an aircraft, airline passengers have nothing but an airline ticket and the promise of safe delivery to their destination.

To reduce service intangibility, buyers look for tangible evidence, information and confidence about the service for which prospective customers uses various informational tools, such as the internet, advertisements, global distribution systems.


In transportation service, inseparability means that the act of production and consumption must be simultaneous. The performance of the service requires the active participation of the producer and the consumer together.

Moreover, production and consumption also take place on the premises or in the equipment. e. aircraft or coaches and not in the consumer’s home environment. It means that most staff involved in providing services or operations have some consumer contact and are seen by customers to be an inseparable aspect of the service. The inseparability of production and consumption is thus a vital concept in services.


It is convenient to treat perishability as a separate characteristic of services, although it follows from the fact of inseparability that service production is typically fixed in time and space. This means that if service, capacity or products are not sold on a particular day, the potential revenue they represent is lost and can not be recovered.

Service production, therefore, is better understood as the capacity to produce; not a number of products. Capacity can be utilized only when customers are present on the producers’ premises.


Transport having a dominant role in services is highly variable. Their quality depends on who provides them and when and where they are provided. There are several causes of service variability. Services are produced and consumed simultaneously, which limits quality control.

Fluctuating demands make it difficult to deliver consistent products during periods of peak demand. The high degree of contact between the service provider and passengers means that product consistency depends upon the service provider’s skills and performance at the time of the exchange. The lack of communication and heterogeneity of passenger expectations is the other source of variability.

Seasonality and Demand Fluctuations

Demand fluctuation between the seasons of the year is the characteristic of most tourist markets and tourism destinations. Residents of northern Europe and northern states of the USA tend mostly to plan their main holiday of the year in the summer months of the year, i.e. June to August, because the winter months of December to March are generally cold and hours of daylight are short.

In contrast, India as a destination has a peak season from September to March, owing to the best climatic conditions that support tourism activities. As a result, various airlines, railways, cruises offer special packages during this season.

Even during the offseason, to overcome the seasonality problem, special discount packages are offered by the various players of the tourism industry. Even during special events like Christmas and New Year, there are special offers from the transport providers in the industry.

Interdependence of Tourism Products

Most tourists in their travel purchase decisions, combine several services or products. A vacationer chooses attractions at a destination together with the products of accommodation, transport and other facilities such as catering.

The sale of tourist transport suppliers is, therefore, influenced to some extent by marketing decisions made by tour operators and travel agents, hoteliers, tourists boards, which together or separately promote a destination and its activities and facilities.

For example, any tourist destination having unique tourist attractions and supported with good infrastructure offers ample scope for tourist service providers such as local transport providers, hotels and other accommodation units, restaurants and catering establishments, etc.

Dominance of External Environment

The external environment surrounding any kind of business dominates the marketing decisions of the producer. Similarly, marketing decisions of transport operators are influenced by their response to six specific external factors, over which they have only very limited control. These factors are below:

  • Vehicle technology (major innovations)
  • Information technology
  • Regulatory environment
  • Cost of fuel
  • Economic growth or decline (national and international economy)
  • Exchange rate fluctuations.

Highly Capital Intensive and Economies of Scale

Most forms of transport are highly capital intensive. The cost of building and maintaining tracks in case of railways and of regularly re-equipping airlines with new aircraft embodying the latest advances in technology require massive investment which is available only to large corporations and investors may seek financial subsidies from the government.

At the same time, transport offers great opportunities for economies of scale, where the unit prices can be dramatically reduced. There is a high element of fixed costs, for example, the fee charged from an airline operating out of a particular airport is the same, whether it operates four flights a day or once a week.

If these overheads are distributed over a greater number of flights, individual seat costs per flight will get reduced. The economies of scale are one of the causations.

Impact of National and International Regulations

In transport as a product, there is a dominating influence of service that determines its quality. Amenities provided to passengers travelling between two or more points, such as comfort, luxury, food and beverage service, etc. influence the quality of service.

Passengers may also judge transportation on the basis of other elements such as speed, frequency, points served, dependability and safety, etc.

For many destinations, transportation plays a vital role in the development of viable tourism industry in terms of transportation of tourists too, from and within destinations and also in terms of transportation of goods (cargo) such as food and supplies needed to support tourism operations.

Types of Transport System

The Transport system is broadly divided into three major divisions as shown in the figure below:

  1. Private Transport
  2. Public Transport
  3. Intermediate Public Transport

Private Transport

Private transport has flexible routes, spaces, timings. Road-based private transport can further be classified as Fast, Slow. Fast is the mechanised mode that includes car, 2 Wheeler, etc. Slow mode is also called non-mechanised modes such as cycles, animal-drawn private vehicles.

Public Transport

Public Transportation includes all multiple-occupancy vehicle services designed to transport customers on local and regional routes. It is transportation by van, bus, or rail or other conveyance, either privately or publicly owned, providing to the public general or special service.

Any form of transportation that charge set fares, run fixed routes, and are available to the public. For Example Bus, Metro, Commuter Rail, Trams, etc.

Intermediate Public Transport

Para-Transit can be further be classified as (i) IPT (Para-Transit) Fast, and (ii)IPT (Para-Transit) Slow:

  • IPT Fast: It is mechanised mode that can be hired and used on any flexibleroute, with flexible timings. IPT in certain part of the city or in some of thecities also run on fixed route. In that case IPT become the substitute of Public Transport System. Some of the examples of IPT-fast are auto rickshaw,Jugad (Modified form of large size auto which is used in Northern part ofIndia), Taxis, Cabs, e-Rickshaw, etc.

  • IPT Slow: It is non-mechanised mode that can be hired and used on anyflexible route, flexible timings. i.e. Cycle Rickshaw, Hand-pull Rickshaw,Camel Cart, etc. IPT plays a greater role in small and medium size cities. It meets the mobilityrequirements even on network where Bus cannot run due to non-availability ofrequired Road Space or transport demand may not justify bus transport.

Transport System as Per Modes

There are broadly five types of transportation modes. The user selects the various modes based on (i) various levels of price and (ii) various levels of service such as convenience, speed, safety and availability.:

  1. Air Based Transport
  2. Rail Based Transport
  3. Road Based Transportation

Air Based Transport

Air-based transport involves the Air Plane. Air transport by nature provides the speediest mode of transport service. This mode of transport does not encounter the geographical barriers of the earth’s surface like mountains, hills, deserts, rivers, etc. and this allows the air transport to provide gradually faster services.

It has also the advantages of linking remote and inaccessible areas across the mountains, oceans, deserts and dense forests. There are three elements in air transport i.e

  • Airway
  • Aircraft service
  • Airport.

Rail Based Transport

Railways are composed of a traced path on which vehicles are bound. They have an average level of physical constraints linked to the types of locomotives and a low gradient is required, particularly for freight.

Heavy industries are traditionally linked with rail transport systems, although, containerization has improved the flexibility of rail transportation by linking it with road and maritime modes. Rails by far the land transportation mode offering the highest capacity.

Rail Based Transportation is of two types:

  1. Regional Rail Transportation
  2. Urban rail Transport.

Road Based Transportation

India has a network of national highways connecting all the major cities and state capitals, forming the economic backbone of the country. As of 2010, India has a total of70,934 km of National Highways, of which 200 km are classified as expressways.

Under NationalHighways Development Project(NHDP), work is under progress to equip some of the important national highways with four lanes; also there is a plan to convert some stretches of these roads to six lanes.

As per the National HighwaysAuthority of India (NHAI), about65% of freight and 80% of passenger traffic is carried by the roads. TheNational Highways carry about 40%of total road traffic, though only about 2% of the road network is covered by these roads. The average growth of the number of vehicles has been around 10.16%per annum over recent years.

Transport System Management

Transport System Management is the planning, monitoring, and controlling or influencing of traffic modes. It aims to:

  • Maximise the effectiveness of the use of existing infrastructure.
  • Ensure reliable and safe operation of transport.
  • Address environmental goals.
  • Ensure fair allocation of infrastructure space (road space, rail slots, etc.)among competing users.

Transport System Management (TSM) maximises the capacity of the street system and reduces the demand on it. Although some of them may be expensive to implement, TSM measures are typically low cost localized improvements that attempt to take full advantage of the existing street infrastructure thereby increasing the efficiency of the street system.

The spectrum of TSM measures is wide; the measures that are applicable will generally fall into one of six categories listed below:

  1. Regulatory Techniques
  2. Traffic Control Devices
  3. Traffic Segregation Techniques
  4. Demand Management Techniques
  5. Bus Priority Techniques
  6. Self-enforcing Techniques

Regulatory Techniques

The regulatory techniques are further divided into 5 management techniques listed below:

  1. One Way Street: This is a technique where vehicle moments are possible only in one direction. Itoptimizes the road capacity and minimizes the conflict. It is best suited if thenetwork is Grid Pattern.

  2. Reversible Streets: It is a technique adopted on the way where one direction traffic is abouttwice the other direction.To adopt this tecnique,another parallel street shouldbe available to accommodate those traffic.

  3. Reversible Lanes: It is a lane in which traffic may travel in either direction, depending on certainconditions. Additional lane should be provided to the peak flow directionby squeezing the carriage way width of opposite traffic flow.

    Typically, it ismeant to improve traffic flow during rush hours, by having overhead trafficlights and lighted street signs, notify drivers which lanes are open or closedto driving or turning. The presence of lane controls allows authorities toclose or reverse lanes when unusual circumstances (such as construction ora traffic mishap) require use of fewer or more lanes to maintain orderlyflow of traffic.

  4. Turning Movement Restrictions: It is a technique used where the turning movement of the vehicles is restrictedor banned to minimise the conflict points.It also helps to minimise the traffissignal phases at crowded intersection.

  5. Closing Streets: It is a technique adopted to improve the flow on the main street by minimisingconflicts.The side street may be used for the parking purposes or thepedestrian purposes according to the requirements.

Traffic Control Devices

The various traffic control devices used for traffic management are:

  1. Traffic Signs: Traffic signs or road signs are signs erected at the side of or above roads toprovide information to road users. As per IRC specifications, the road signscan be broadly classified into:

    (a) Informatory Signs (They are Shown in Rectangle) (b) Cautionary Signs (Also known as warning Sign, shown in triangle)(c) Mandatory Signs.

  2. Traffic Signals: These are important for orderly traffic movement and it also helps thepedestrians to cross in heavy traffic stream.

  3. Road Surface Markings: Road surface marking is any kind of device or material that is used on a roadsurface in order to convey official information. They can also be applied inother facilities used by vehicles to mark parking spaces or designate areasfor other uses.

    Road surface markings are used on paved roadways to provideguidance and information to drivers and pedestrians. Uniformity of themarkings is an important factor in minimizing confusion and uncertainty.

  4. Computerised Signal Control Device: ITS technology is used to regulate the traffic flow. Cycle time is optimizedaccording to the cycle volume at morning, evening and non-peak hours. Acomputerised signal control device is placed at intersection whereby theinformation is transferred to the control room and signal operation iscontrolled to minimise the delay.

  5. Traffic Cone and Drums: These are portable temporary devices used to delineate the diverted path.

  6. Speed Breakers: This is a traffic control device which alerts the driver of the change incondition and to break the speed of the vehicle. Now a days rumble stripsand sleeping police mans are also used.

Traffic Segregation Techniques

The various traffic segregation techniques used are:

  1. Vehicle-vehicle Segregation: It is a technique used to separate slow moving vehicle from the fast moving.Basically it is observed in CBD area ,where slow moving vehicle are confinedto outer area.

  2. Pedestrian-vehicle Segregation: It is a technique used to seperate the pedestrians from the moving vehicles.

  3. Time Segregation: It is a technique meant to regulate the specific traffics at different times ofthe day. For example heavy vehicle are not allowed in peak hours in busy area.

Demand Management Techniques

  1. Parking Restriction: It is a technique where parking may be restricted in the CBD area or the coreareas where there is limitation of space for parking. On street parking avoidedif traffic flow is more on the corridor.

  2. Parking Pricing: It is a tool used for enforcing on-street parking policy, usually related to thetraffic and mobility management policies in order to reduce the demand forparking in the core areas. Pricing methods are being improved to makepricing more cost effective, convenient and fair.

  3. Off street Parking and Pay Area: According to land availability and the demand for parking,off street parkingis created with a specific parking tariff.

  4. On street Parking Meters: In this case, a meter may be installed on the on-street parking such that thedemand reduces and the traffic flow is not hampered.

  5. Park and Ride Systems: Large off street parking is created to enable motorist to park their vehicleand switch to public transport to reach work place ,CBD etc.

Bus Priority Techniques

The various bus priority techniques used are:

  1. Bus Priority Maneuvers: It is a technique to give priority to buses by permitting them turning movements that are prohibited to other vehicles.

  2. Bus Lanes: A bus lane or bus only lane is lane restricted to buses on certain days andtimes, and generally used to speed up public transport.• Such lane is either with-flow bus lane and contra-flow bus lane.• The with flow bus lane should be proposed if frequency of the buses is60 per hour in number or the 1.5 times the passenger moved by othervehicles.

  3. Bus Priority Signal System: By providing Bus priority signal, public transport may be promoted.

Self-enforcing Techniques

These are some techniques that ensure traffic discipline automatically. The various techniques used are:

  1. Central Divider
  2. Railing
  3. Parabolic Dividers
  4. Channelisers
  5. Parking Notches
  6. Sleeping Policeman

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