Outrun Change

We need to learn quickly to keep up with the massive change around us so we don't get run over. We need to outrun change.

Archive for the tag “transportation cost”

Travel time from New York to California and back in the 1850s

State of the art travel in the 1860s. Star of India sailing ship in San Diego harbor. Photo by James Ulvog.

State of the art travel in the 1860s. Star of India sailing ship in San Diego harbor. Photo by James Ulvog.

The time it took to travel from the east coast to west coast in the mid-1850s is described in American Ulysses: A Life of Ulysses S. Grant, by Ronald C. White.

The book is fantastic, by the way.

The time for transit from New York to Washington and back home is described. For comparison, I’ll repeat the timing for a trip by William Sherman described in another book, which I mentioned a while back.

Here are the transit times:

  • 43 days – New York to San Francisco via Isthmus of Panama – 1852
  • 51 days – San Francisco to New York via Panama – 1854
  • 198 days – New York to Monterey, California sailing around Cape Horn – 1847

West-bound trip

Lieutenant Grant’s unit was transferred from Michigan to the Washington territory.

At the time, there were three options for the trip. First was overland via the Oregon Trail. Second, sailing around Cape Horn at the tip of South America. Third, portage across the Isthmus of Panama.

His unit went the Panama route.

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Long distance travel times now and 100 years ago

Standard travel in 2016. Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

Boeing 747. Standard method of long distance travel in 2016. Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

Max Roser sent the following tweets on January 7:

Max Roser ‏@MaxCRoser [1 of 2] Travel times from London in 1914


State of the art travel in 1912. Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

H.M.S. Titanic. State of the art long distance travel in 1912. Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

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Time to cross the Atlantic – 500 year history

Replica of a state-of-the-art warship in the 1800s. That is how you could get across the ocean quickly back then. Photo of San Diego Maritime Museum by James Ulvog.

Replica of a state-of-the-art warship in the 1800s. For a couple hundred years, this is the technology you would use to get across the ocean. Photo from San Diego Maritime Museum by James Ulvog.

For a thumbnail overview of the radical reduction in time it takes to travel long distances over the last 500 years, look at the time to cross the Atlantic Ocean from Europe to America, provided by Robert Bryce in his book Smaller Faster Lighter Denser Cheaper: How Innovation Keeps Proving the Catastrophists Wrong.

He points out at location 1582 of the Kindle edition: Read more…

The dramatically improved efficiency of dramatically increased amount of travel in America over 40 years

The workhorse 737, along with all other commercial jets, have improved their efficiency tremendously over the last 40 years. Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

The workhorse 737, along with all other commercial jets, has seen improved efficiency over the last 40 years. Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

Robert Bryce dives deep into the astounding technological and economic advances of the last 200 years as he ponders Smaller Faster Lighter Denser Cheaper: How Innovation Keeps Proving the Catastrophists Wrong.

Yet one more reason the neo-Malthusians are wrong in predicting imminent collapse, according to Mr Bryce is

..that we are wringing more and more value out of the energy that we consume.

Consider that in Read more…

Transportation costs dropped 95% in the 1800s

There are a lot of data points on travel cost and travel time during the first half of the 1800s mentioned by Allen Guelzo in his fantastic book, Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President.

Here is the most amazing part:

Overall drop in cost to transport freight with canals, steamboats, and railroads (location 641):

  • 95%

I want to accumulate some of these tidbits since I’m amazed at the radical change created by technology.

Transportation time and cost


Travel by stagecoach: Read more…

45th anniversary of Apollo 11’s flight to the moon landing — – 60th anniversary of 707’s first flight

July 20, 1969 is the day Apollo 11 landed on the moon. I vaguely remember watching. What an astounding accomplishment for humanity and the U.S.

Two fun articles:

July 15, 1954 is the day the Boeing 707 took its first flight.  The decisions made after the first flight revolutionized air travel.

Read more…

Increase in speed of travel in 1800s

The time you have to invest getting from here to there is a major cost of travel. We are so astoundingly spoiled today since we can end our day anywhere in the U.S. starting from anywhere else. Within 24 or 30 hours you can get to just about any country on the planet.

We have to work to remember that  speed is a relatively new development. For most of human history the huge time needed to get from here to there was a severe limit on travel and commerce.

A post in Mother Nature Network, How fast could you travel across the U.S. in the 1800s, highlights maps that show travel times to get across the country.

For perspective, the maps are dawn in terms of travel time from New York City. I pulled together some of the travel times to show the improvements in speed.

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Cost of travel by air has dropped a lot over the last several decades

Graph the inflation-adjusted cost of air travel over the last 33 years – it looks like a straight line down until a couple of years ago and then a slight increase. Average ticket prices today are about 60% of what they were in 1980. Cool.

Mark Perry graphed the data from Airlines for America in his post, Even with baggage fees, the “miracle of flight” remains a real bargain; average 2011 airfare was 40% below 1980 average.

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In terms of hours labor it took to pay for a stamp, what was the cost to send a half-ounce letter cross-country on the Pony Express? Would you believe about half the cost to send yourself across the country now?

While touring the Wells Fargo Museum in San Diego, I enjoyed their description of the Pony Express. Of course I had to convert the cost of mailing a letter to now.

According to the museum, the Pony Express ran from April 1860 to October 1861. From April 1861 until October, Wells Fargo ran the Pony route west of Salt Lake City. However, they set the rates and printed stamps for the entire cross-country run.

Wells Fargo reduced the rate to $2 per ½ ounce and then cut the rate further to $1 per ½ ounce.

In terms of average pay of the time, that is equal to about half a ticket to fly from Missouri to San Francisco today.

Let me explain.

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Travel cost by stagecoach in 1870s – part two

So what was the cost for cross-country travel by stagecoach in the 1870s?

I previously mentioned some of the fun exhibits in the Seeley Stable and Wells Fargo museums in Old Town, San Diego.

Putting together several of the information displays gives this information:

The Butterfield Overland Mail stagecoach run from St. Louis Missouri to San Francisco, California covered 2800 miles.

The fare was $200. 

Travel time was 24 days. That means the overall average travel speed was 3½ or 4½ miles per hour including changing out the horses and rest stops.

Let’s convert that into weeks of salary

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Travel cost by stagecoach in 1870s – part one

What did it cost to travel by stagecoach from San Diego to Los Angeles in 1871?  How does that compare to today?

The Seeley Stable Museum and Wells Fargo Museum in Old Town, San Diego offer fun examples of 1800s transportation. Carretas, cargo wagons, Mud Wagon stagecoaches, and Concord stagecoaches.

I picked up a lot of fun information while touring those museums a while back.

Read more…

Subsidy to construct the transcontinental railroad

An exhibit at the Huntington Library called Visions of Empire: The Quest for a Railroad Across America, 1840-1880 had a comment describing payments from the government to railroad companies to assist in constructing the transcontinental railroad:

  • $16,000 per mile on easy grades
  • $32,000 per mile for the high plains
  • $48,000 per mile in the mountains

Lots of money at the time, but a bargain considering how much it helped the economy develop.

Impact on travel time from the transcontinental railroad and average transportation speeds

An exhibit at the Huntington Library called Visions of Empire: The Quest for a Railroad Across America, 1840-1880 had a display describing coast-to-coast travel time:

  • 6 months – before the trans-continental railroad. ( I think that was before the stage coach lines were in place.)
  • 1 week – after the railroad was completed

Twenty-six weeks versus one week. That would be a 96% reduction in travel time.

The exhibit also had a display listing the average speed of travel in miles per hour:

Read more…

Travel time and cost in the Roman Empire

Stanford has an awesome site that shows time and cost to travel in the Roman Empire. You can find it at

ORBIS – The Stanford Geosptial Network Model of the Roman World

If you’ve read my blogs for a while, you know I am a member of the Protestant tradition of the Christian faith community.  As a result, the Roman Empire is of interest, since that was the occupying power in Israel during the New Testament period.

You also know I am interested the impact of technology on the cost of everything, including travel.

You can only imagine what a delight it is to find a web site that overlaps travel costs and the Roman Empire.

Here is a description of ORBIS from its website:

Spanning one-ninth of the earth’s circumference across three continents, the Roman Empire ruled a quarter of humanity through complex networks of political power, military domination and economic exchange. These extensive connections were sustained by premodern transportation and communication technologies that relied on energy generated by human and animal bodies, winds, and currents.

Conventional maps that represent this world as it appears from space signally fail to capture the severe environmental constraints that governed the flows of people, goods and information. Cost, rather than distance, is the principal determinant of connectivity.

For the first time, ORBIS allows us to express Roman communication costs in terms of both time and expense. By simulating movement along the principal routes of the Roman road network, the main navigable rivers, and hundreds of sea routes in the Mediterranean, Black Sea and coastal Atlantic, this interactive model reconstructs the duration and financial cost of travel in antiquity.

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Cost of crossing Atlantic on Titanic expressed in wages of the time

I’m taking a meandering trip to look at the cost to cross the Atlantic in 1912 versus 2012.

Previous post looked at the ticket prices for various classes of accommodations on the Titanic and salaries for a variety of positions at the time.

I converted some of those weekly salary numbers into annual amounts and then lined up the positions in terms of which class of accommodations people would likely take.  This shows the number of weeks salary it would take to buy a ticket on Titanic.

Read more…

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