The US has the best-equipped transportation network in the entire world. Economic prosperity is increasingly dependent on the efficient transport of goods and people, especially over long distances. The quality and performance of transport infrastructure has become a limiting factor in economic development.
Roads in the USA measure more than 6 million km. Practically all major cities are connected by a carefully planned highway network, which accounts for 1/3 of the total road length. There are about 145 million passenger cars in the country and most households own more than one vehicle. The automobile is an absolutely indispensable part of any activity, and the high rate of automobileization brings significant problems to American society. In addition to the often congested roads, it is primarily exhaust gas pollution that has forced Oregon and a number of other states to adopt laws restricting automobile traffic. Automobilization has also resulted in the decline of urban public transport systems.
According to Cancermatters, the railway network is also the longest in the world, although since the 1920s its length and the number of passengers have been decreasing. Nevertheless, the railway still transports a significant amount of cargo, especially bulky cargo, as well as containers and so-called piggyback cargo (trucks transported on wagons). Despite this trend, rail and underground transportation still provide a significant portion of urban and suburban transportation, especially in older cities such as Chicago and New York. There is also some progress in creating effective alternatives to car transport in cities plagued by permanent traffic jams. Examples are the above-ground high-speed rail systems in San Francisco or Pittsburgh.
Long-distance passenger transport is dominated by air transport, although long-distance bus transport is a cheap and prompt alternative. The railways can no longer compete in the sphere of transcontinental passenger transport. The three most important hubs for domestic and international air traffic are New York with three major airports (JF Kennedy, Newark and La Guardia), Chicago with O’Hare Airport (the largest in the world) and Atlanta, Georgia. Dallas-Forth Worth, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Denver airports are also among the largest in the world. Regular air connections have almost 850 airports (of which almost 300 are in Alaska). More than 16,000 other airports serve local traffic, mostly private and corporate flights.
The inland water network has at its disposal tens of thousands of kilometers of navigable rivers and canals, with the most important route being the Mississippi with its tributary Ohio, along the Hudson and its connection with the St. Lawrence and the Great Lakes, which are also accessible to seagoing ships. Maritime transport, which plays a significant role in domestic cargo transportation, is served by major seaports such as New Orleans, New York, Houston, Valdez, Alaska, Long Beach/Los Angeles, and Corpus Christi, Texas. The largest inland port is Duluth on Lake Superior.
Media and Connections
All mass media in the US are independent of the government and often oppose government policy on controversial issues. Leaks from the Vietnamese government helped end American involvement, and the revelations of journalists in the Watergate affair brought down the Nixon administration.
The dominant media are television and the Internet. Until recently, television broadcasting was controlled by three major television companies. The majority of TV companies’ revenue comes from advertising, so there is a strong tendency to rank individual TVs, channels and programs based on viewership. Efforts are currently being made to increase the variety and quality of television programs. Cable television widened the options, which also gave space to minority and local interests. 204 million users are connected to the Internet.
Television has long overtaken print as the primary source of information. The press is traditionally characterized by regional and local scope, a new trend is represented by newspapers in satellite districts. Only three newspapers cover the entire state with their circulation and scope. Radio broadcasting also has a regional and local character.
The national telephone network is operated by seven regional telephone companies, while local services are provided by nearly 1,700 independent companies. Nevertheless, the decisive role in the production, research and development of telecommunications belongs to the largest American company, the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T).