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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Transport development and regional economic growth in northeastern British Columbia Aylsworth, James Arthur

Abstract

The topic of this thesis is the relationship between transportation modes and regional economic development. The objective is to determine the influence of the mode on the pattern of development. The three most significant variables in transmitting the influence are seen to be: the construction pattern and attributes of the transport systems; the resources of the region; and the stage of development of the region. The basis of the relationship is that theoretically and empirically, in a frontier region transportation is one of the most effective and controllable factors influencing industrial investments. The relationship is examined by associating private investments in northeastern British Columbia with the demand and supply of transportation units in the region. The investment statistics are drawn from government publications while the transportation units are documented in a variety of ways. Firstly, the historical development of the networks is discussed. Then, a measure of the road network is developed to simulate the changing relative lengths of the road links over time. Investment in industrial categories in the study region was found to be related to attributes of transport networks, such as rates and frequency. Correspondence with firms in the study area supplied additional information about transportation needs and costs. The empirical data on transportation networks are discussed in terms of theories of industrial location and regional economic development to arrive at explanations of the spatial and temporal distribution of the investment. The conclusions drawn from the study verified that investments in certain sectors of the economy were related to specific transport modes. Investments in some primary industries were dependent on certain transport units supplied by the rail network. Cheaper freight rates, volume and size restrictions and frequency characteristics of the rail mode made it attractive to those industries which traditionally had low value-to-weight ratio goods. Investments in the primary industries were also associated temporally with changes in the rail network. The wood products and paper and allied industries received investments temporally and spatially related to changes in the rail network. Investments in industries linked with these primary industries were also documented showing temporal sequence patterns. The findings demonstrated that in a resource region, transportation units with specific characteristics are desired to facilitate development of resources. Cost was found to be one dominating consideration. Some industries which used the rail system, could have used the road network but it would have cost 10-30% more to do so given the characteristics of the existing roads. It was found in other industries that the frequency of service or volume capacity characteristics of the rail system were superior to the road system. These characteristics were found to be the most important in the study region and were incorporated into a model of transport related development in a frontier region. The first stage of the model covered the development of an interregional link to join the region with its potential markets. This interregional link or path was at first supplied by a road network and is traditionally of poor quality. The second stage coincides with the "opening up" of the region. Resources are developed and some processing of these resources begins. At this stage, a rail network with its lower rates, large capacities and interregional characteristics is the most useful mode. During this stage the region is slowly beginning to develop its urban hierarchy, but is still sparsely settled. The third stage is reached when activities are linked both in a forward and backward direction, to give the region a greater range of products, and in general products with a higher value-to-weight ratio. Because of this and because the urban hierarchy begins to develop, the highway network becomes more competitive. The model therefore presents a way of looking at the changing function of road and rail networks as a frontier region develops. This changing function is based on the characteristics of the transport modes, the production mix of the region and the level of development of the region.

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