Modes of transport

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A mode of transport (or means of transport or transport mode or transport modality or form of transport) is a term used to distinguish substantially different ways to perform transport[1].


The most dominant modes of urban transport are land transport, including road, rail, water and air transport. Other modes also exist, including pipelines, cable transport, and space transport. Transport using more than one mode is described as multimodal transport. Transportation that carries around many people and can be used by the public is known as mass transport.

Each mode has its own infrastructure, vehicles, and operations, and often has unique regulations. Each mode of transport therefore also has different security issues which should be accounted for in the design and operation processes.

Road transport

People travelling on the road are either pedestrians, cyclists or they are using a certain type of vehicle, such as automobiles, bicycles, buses, vans or trucks. Passenger transport may furthermore be public, where operators provide scheduled services, or private.

Potential risks for road transport are blocked roads and traffic accidents. Blocked roads can be prevented or the consequences can be minimized by using traffic management, such as incident management and designing a robust road network. Traffic accidents can also be minimized by these measures, and by road safety.


A motor vehicle or road vehicle that is a self-propelled wheeled vehicle that does not operate on rails, such as trains or trolleys. The vehicle propulsion is provided by an engine or motor [2].

Non-motorized transport

Non-motorized transportation (also known as active transportation or human powered transportation) includes walking and bicycling, and variants such as small-wheeled transport (skates, skateboards, push scooters and hand carts) and wheelchair travel. These modes provide both recreation and utilitarian transportation, although users may consider a particular trip to serve both objectives.

Regarding personal security this refers to freedom from risk of assault, theft and vandalism. Such risks can discourage walking, cycling and transit travel. These problems can be addressed through various programs and design strategies that increase security. These can include Neighbourhood Watch and community policing programs, special police patrols (including police on foot and bicycles), pedestrian escorts, and monitoring of pedestrian, bicycle, transit and Park & Ride facilities[3].


Walking is a means of transport that is commonly used for short trips. At present, the importance of walking is underestimated because national travel surveys often do not register the shorter trips and the walking parts of trips made by public transport are usually not taken into account . Walkability is a measure to assess the overall attractiveness for walking mobility in an area.


Cycling or also known as bicycling or biking is a means of transport that is commonly used for short to moderate distance trips. Cycling is a very efficient and effective mode of transportation because (a) it is very cost-efficient for its users; (b) the infrastructure investment costs are much lower than for (private) motorized traffic infrastructure; (c) the bicycle is as time-effective or even better as motorized traffic in dense and congested urban areas ; (d) it has zero-emissions[4][5].

Regarding safety and security cyclists are more vulnerable when in conflicting situations with motorized transport. Safety can be increased with proper bicycle path facilities such as segregated bicycle pathways. In general cycling improves the urban liveability because it involves more human activity on the streets and reduces motorized, high speed transportation.

Other non-motorized modes

Other non-motorized modes include small-wheeled transport such as skates, skateboards, push scooters and hand carts but also wheelchairs. These modes are primarily used for recreational purposes.

Light commercial vehicles

Light commercial vehicles (LCV, also sometimes Light goods vehicle or LGV) is a commercial carrier vehicles with a Gross vehicle weight (GVW) of up to 3.5 tonnes[6].

Heavy duty vehicles

A truck (North American, Irish and Australian English) or lorry (British and Commonwealth English) is a motor vehicle designed to transport cargo. Trucks vary greatly in size, power, and configuration. Commercial trucks can be very large and powerful, and may be configured to mount specialized equipment, such as in the case of fire trucks and concrete mixers and suction excavators. Modern trucks are powered by either gasoline or diesel engines, with diesel dominant in commercial applications. In the European Union vehicles with a gross combination mass of less than 3,500 kilograms (7,716 lb) are known as Light commercial vehicles and those over as Large goods vehicles[7].

In the United States, commercial truck classification is determined based on the vehicle's gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR). The classes range from 1-8.[1] It is also done more broadly under the US DOT Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Vehicle Inventory and Use Survey (VIUS) standards, which groups Class 1, 2 and 3 as "Light Duty", 4, 5 and 6 as "Medium Duty", and 7-8 as "Heavy Duty" [8].


A bus (also omnibus, multibus, or autobus) is a road vehicle designed to carry passengers. Buses normally have a capacity of 10 to 60 passengers. The most common type of bus is the single-decker rigid bus, with larger loads carried by double-decker buses and articulated buses, and smaller loads carried by midibuses and minibuses; coaches are used for longer distance services.

Buses may be used for scheduled bus transport, scheduled coach transport, school transport, private hire, tourism; promotional buses may be used for political campaigns and others are privately operated for a wide range of purposes[9].

Rail transport

Rail transport includes all transport over rails. This can be either for passenger or goods transport, and with different modes of transport, such as trains, metro and trams.

With rail transport, more people or goods can be transported within the same transport vehicle (i.e.) than with road transport. However, there is less flexibility for choosing a different route or time. A schedule is needed to manage all vehicles/trains on the railroad network. Also, disruptions can have large consequences on the schedule, since passing a standstill train is not always possible. This makes a railway system especially vulnerable for incidents or possible terrorist attacks.


A railway or railroad train is a connected series of vehicles for rail transport that move along a track (permanent way) to transport cargo or passengers from one place to another place. The track usually consists of two rails, but might also be a monorail or maglev guideway. Propulsion for the train is provided by a separate locomotive, or from individual motors in self-propelled multiple units. Most modern trains are powered by diesel locomotives or by electricity supplied by overhead wires or additional rails[10].


A tram (also known. as a tramcar, streetcar, trolley car) is a passenger rail vehicle which runs on tracks along public urban streets and also sometimes on separate rights of way. It may also run between cities and/or towns (interurbans, tram-train), and/or partially grade separated even in the cities (light rail). Trams very occasionally also carry freight[11].

Water transport

Water transport or Ship transport is watercraft carrying people (passengers) or goods (cargo). Sea transport has been the largest carrier of freight throughout recorded history. Although the importance of sea travel for passengers has decreased due to aviation, it is effective for short trips and pleasure cruises. Transport by water is cheaper than transport by air.

Ship transport can be over any distance by boat, ship, sailboat or barge, over oceans and lakes, through canals or along rivers. Shipping may be for commerce, recreation or the military. Virtually any material that can be moved, can be moved by water, however water transport becomes impractical when material delivery is highly time-critical[12].

Air transport

Air transport includes all transport through the air. In an urban or regional context this air transport includes local air traffic such as small airplanes or helicopters. From a broader perspective air transport within urban or regional areas include passenger and freight air routes that cross urban or regional areas. In the context of urban security air transport is explicitly high impact. As experienced during 9/11 and other terrorist threats the consequences of failing security are devastating. Air traffic is therefore extremely well monitored, both in terms of passengers or freight as in terms of routing and operations management. Security enforcement primarily takes place at the airports incorporating many facets of security management.

Public transport

Public transport is passenger transport which is publicly available. This can furthermore be distinguished in collective and individual transport. Examples of collective public transport are transport by buses, tram metro, train and plane. Examples of individual public transport are taxis, and in some countries so called riksjas or tuk tuks (a bicycle or moped with a backseat for a few people).Public transport management is used to manage the public transport in order to be able to get people from A to B with public transport as efficiently as possible. If the public transport is disrupted due to a security issue, public transport management measures can be used to minimize the hindrance, such as sending temporary buses or letting trains drive over alternative routes.Public transport is very vulnerable to terrorist attacks, since many people use the same means of transport on the same time and the schedule and routes are publicly available. An attack is therefore easy and the consequences are big.

Freight transport and logistics

A special discipline within transportation is freight transport and logistics. It concerns the distribution of goods from the source to their destination, such as warehouses or terminals for further distribution to e.g. shops. This can involve different modes of transport. The total system of organizations, people, technology, activities, information and resources involved in moving a product or service from supplier to customer is called a supply chain. Optimizing this chain is called supply chain optimization. This is mainly focused on time and cost minimization. Disruptions in the supply chain (possibly caused by security issues) mainly have economical consequences, while incidents in passenger transport also might have health consequences for people.

Multimodal transport

Multimodal transport relates to trips for which travellers use two or more transport modes, for example bicycle and train, train and bus, or private car and metro. The requirements for multimodal transport are numerous: transfer nodes, travel information, synchronized transport services, and so on. Multimodal transport requires new organizational and financial arrangements between all actors involved[13].

Multimodal transport nodes such as ports or public transport terminals form a critical aspect of multimodal transport planning. Due to the large flows of passengers and goods these locations are vulnerable to security threats and need to be designed and operated accordingly.

Mass transport

Mass transport or mass transportation is a typical form of public transport wherein large flows of people are transported. Most common examples are subway’s, light rails, trams, bus rapid transit and airplanes.

Mass transport have specific vulnerabilities for security threats, sometimes specifically linked with the use of transportations hubs.

Footnotes and references

  1. see:
  2. From:, retrieved on April 11, 2012.
  3. From:
  4. From: TRB, 2006. NCHRP Report 552 — Guidelines for Analysis of Investments in Bicycle Facilities. TRB (Transportation Research Board),Washington, DC.
  5. From: OECD, 2004. Implementing sustainable urban travel policies. Moving ahead: National policies to promote cycling. In OECD (Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development), European Commission of Ministers of Transport 2004, OECD: Paris.
  6. From:
  13. From: van Nes, 2002, Design of multimodal transport networks